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Australia to reopen to international travellers in November, PM says

A woman proceeds to the check-in counter for New Zealand flights at Sydney International Airport on April 19, 2021.
A woman proceeds to the check-in counter for New Zealand flights at Sydney International Airport on April 19, 2021.   -   Copyright  SAEED KHAN / AFP
By Josephine Joly  & AFP

Australia is set to restart international travel next month once the country hits its 80% vaccination target, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Friday.

The plan would see states follow New South Wales' lead in allowing travel for vaccinated passengers with pre-flight COVID-19 testing and one week of home quarantine.

"Once changes are made in November, the current overseas travel restrictions related to COVID-19 will be removed and we'll be working towards complete quarantine free travel for certain countries such as New Zealand, when it is safe to do so," Morrison said.

The move was criticised by Queensland's Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who said it was "disappointing" that state and territory leaders were not briefed ahead of the national cabinet meeting.

She added that Queensland would not open until it was safe to do so.

But businesses, universities and airports associations welcomed the news after an estimated 30,000 nationals have been unable to return to their homeland without special permission from the government.

Qantas airlines announced it will bring forward the resumption of international flights by a month, to November 14.

Morrison also announced that Australian citizens and permanent residents who cannot be vaccinated, including children and those with medical exemptions, will be treated as vaccinated for the purposes of their travel.

Australia's federal government, following China, the EU, Israel and the UK, has developed vaccine passports based on QR codes that will certify a passenger’s vaccine status.

The COVID-19 passports should be ready by the end of October.

Two other COVID-19 vaccines, the Coronavac (Sinovac) and Covishield (AstraZeneca/Serum Institute of India), should also join the list of vaccines already approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

On March 20, 2020, Australia introduced some of the strictest border restrictions in the world in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to data from the Department of Home Affairs, more than 100,000 requests for entry or exit were denied in the first five months of this year alone.