Have you already taken out your passport for that long awaited post-coronavirus-lockdown overseas trip? You might want to store it away again, because international travel for Australians is likely to be off the cards until 2021.
Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said the decision to keep the borders shut was one of the main reasons for Australia’s success in conquering COVID-19, and therefore there won’t be any rush to reopen the borders.
“I do sadly think that in terms of open tourist-related travel in or out of Australia, that remains quite some distance off,” Birmingham told the National Press Club.
“Just because of the practicalities of the volumes that are involved and the need for us to first and foremost keep putting health first.”
When asked whether that meant the border won’t open until 2021, Birmingham responded, “I think that is more likely the case.”
Qantas has also announced that it has cancelled most international flights until late October.
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The Trans-Tasman ‘travel bubble’
However, that doesn’t mean travel is completely off the cards. The Federal Government is working on a ‘travel bubble’, which involves a few exceptions to Australia’s border closures.
Discussions between Australian and New Zealand governments on proposals by the joint Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group could open the possibility of travel between the two countries by September without the need for an isolation or quarantine period at either end of the journey. But there is still no set timeframe of when this might happen.
Other potential international destinations
If coronavirus cases continue to remain low, this ‘travel bubble’ may extend to other Pacific Islands including Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu. Singapore has also raised the possibility of opening its borders to a selection of countries including Australia, by the end of 2020.
International students will be allowed
The Federal Government will allow international students back into Australia in a “pilot basis” from July. Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced in a National Cabinet meeting that these students will only be allowed to enter the country on “pre-approved plans” for “particular institutions”.
“We’ve received some very, I think, well thought-through proposals from states as to how this can be done,” Morrison said.
“This is something that I’m sure we would all welcome happening again, but it has to be done with appropriate quarantine entry arrangements and biosecurity, and all of those matters [are] being addressed.”
Business travel could also be a possibility
Senator Birmingham also suggested business-related travel may also be opened up.
“I think those who might not only be international students, but be here for longer-term work purposes or longer-term business and investment purposes, logically you can extend those sort of same safeguards to them and their state,” he said.
“I hope that we can look eventually at some of those countries who have similar successes in suppressing the spread of COVID to Australia and New Zealand, and in working through that with those countries, find safe pathways to deal with essential business travel that helps to contribute to jobs across our economies.”
Australians urged to travel domestically
With Australians spending more than $65 billion on overseas holidays in 2019, the Government wants some of this money to be spent domestically, instead.
Birmingham even said people who can afford domestic travel should feel “an almost patriotic duty” to support local businesses.
However, even some Australian states have border restrictions still enforced.
New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT have no border restrictions.
South Australia has opened its borders to Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania, and will expand this to other states from July 20.
Queensland is working towards reopening its borders by July, however Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has warned this won’t proceed if there is active transmission interstate.
Tasmania will revisit its border closure in July, while mandatory hotel quarantine has been lifted in the Northern Territory.
Western Australia is proving to be the most firm state with no future plans to reopen its borders.
The Federal Government has even intervened against the closure, with Attorney-General Christian Porter saying the Commonwealth will argue the restrictions are unconstitutional.
WA Premier Mark McGowan has indicated borders won’t reopen unless there has been four weeks of no community transmission in Victoria and New South Wales.
“Look, we’re trying to do the right thing by the people of Western Australia, by the health of Western Australians and by the economy of Western Australia,” McGowan told reporters.
There’s still opportunity to travel locally
While you still might be hesitant to travel domestically, let alone internationally, interstate travel is always an option.
Not sure what’s available?
If you live in NSW, why not go on an overnight bushwalk, take a trip with your furry friend to one of these pet-friendly holiday destinations, or book yourself in at one of the best health retreats? You know you deserve it.