Australia’s 4 phase-plan to open its borders

Australia’s 4 phase-plan to open its borders

“When will Australia’s borders open?” This is the question that many people including international students and workers have been asking us for the past 12 months. Covid19 has put us in an unprecedented situation where people cannot travel inbound or outbound Australia. Many plans and studies are disrupted. Many families and couples are forced to live apart. Many Australian companies are in labour shortage as international workers are not allowed to travel to the country. Australia’s borders are currently closed and travel to Australia is only available if you are exempt or you have been granted an individual exemption.

With the current roll out of vaccination, the Australian Government has agreed on a 4-phase plan to gradually open its border to international travellers. The plan depends heavily on the percentage of vaccinated residents. Summary below.

Phase A: now

At this phase, Australia is continuing to strongly suppress the virus for the purpose of minimising community transmission. With this purpose, the following measures are implemented:

  • Accelerate vaccination rates
  • Close international borders to keep COVID-19 out
  • Early, stringent and short lockdowns if outbreaks occur
  • Minimize cases in the community through effective test, trace and isolate capabilities
  • Implement the national vaccination plan to offer every Australian an opportunity to be vaccinated with the necessary doses of the relevant vaccine as soon as possible;
  • Inbound passenger caps temporarily reduced
  • Domestic travel restrictions directly proportional to lockdown requirements
  • International Freight Assistance Mechanism extended
  • Trial and pilot the introduction of alternative quarantine options, including home quarantine for returning vaccinated travelers;
  • Expand commercial trials for limited entry of student and economic visa holders
  • Recognize and adopt the existing digital Medicare Vaccination Certificate (automatically generated for every vaccination registered on AIR);
  • Establish digital vaccination authentication at international borders;

Phase B: 70% vaccinated

  • Maintain high vaccination rates, encouraging uptake through incentives and other measures
  • Minimize cases in the community through ongoing low-level restrictions and effective track and trace
  • Lockdowns less likely but possible
  • International border caps and low-level international arrivals, with safe and proportionate quarantine to minimize the risk of COVID entering
  • Ease restrictions on vaccinated residents
  • Restore inbound passenger caps at previous levels for unvaccinated returning travelers and larger caps for vaccinated returning travelers;
  • Allow capped entry of student and economic visa holders subject to quarantine arrangements and availability;
  • Introduce new reduced quarantine arrangements for vaccinated residents; 

At this phase, a number of international students and workers might be allowed to travel to Australia, so long as they are fully vaccinated with certificates.

Phase C: 80% vaccinated

  • Maximize vaccination coverage
  • Highly targeted lockdowns only
  • Continue vaccine booster programme;
  • Exempt vaccinated residents from all domestic restrictions;
  • Abolish caps on returning vaccinated Australians;
  • Allow increased capped entry of student, economic, and humanitarian visa holders;
  • Lift all restrictions on outbound travel for vaccinated Australians; and
  • Extend travel bubble for unrestricted travel to new candidate countries (Singapore, Pacific)
  • Gradual reopening of inward and outward international travel with safe countries and proportionate quarantine and reduced requirements for fully vaccinated inbound travelers.

Phase D: Travels with limited restriction

 Open international borders

  • Quarantine for high-risk inbound travel
  • Minimize cases in the community without ongoing restrictions or lockdowns
  • Live with COVID-19: management consistent with influenza or other infectious diseases
  • Boosters as necessary
  • Allow uncapped inbound arrivals for all vaccinated persons, without quarantine; and
  • Allow uncapped arrivals of non-vaccinated travelers subject to pre-flight and on arrival testing.

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