Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Australian PM announces fast-tracked plan to reopen international borders
Australia’s international borders could reopen for vaccinated travellers in NSW as early as November 1 under a fast-tracked plan announced today by the country’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison “to allow us to take our lives back”.
The proposal outlined by the Morrison follows discussions with new NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet about fast-tracking the rollout of home quarantine.
The move away from 14 days of hotel quarantine for vaccinated travellers is regarded as a crucial step before international travel can start ramping up to pre-pandemic levels. Trials are currently away in several Australian states.
News.com.au understands the date being looked at for the reopening of international borders under a home quarantine model is November 1.
“The NSW Premier and I have been discussing how we can accelerate our plan to open international travel when home quarantine is made available,” Morrison said today.
“I know the NSW Government is looking at ways to fast track home quarantine in November and if that happens we will be able to move to facilitate the opening up of the international border into NSW sooner.
“Now, that would mean home quarantine for vaccinated Australians wishing to return home via Sydney and giving the option for international travel for vaccinated Australians to leave and return.”
It’s expected that allowing travellers to quarantine at home will spike demand for flights allowing Qantas and other carriers to dramatically expand the number of routes on offer.
Morrison announced earlier this month that the border closures that have remained in place since March 2020 will be lifted but it was up to individual states whether they will scrap caps on international arrivals and allow home quarantine.
As a result, states including WA and Queensland could shut out international flights for months to come but residents would be able to fly overseas via NSW.
In a video address to the nation posted on Facebook on Sunday, Morrison praised Australians for the sacrifices they have made during the pandemic.
“Over the course of this pandemic Australians have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to come together and save lives and livelihoods,” he said.
“The phenomenal response from Australians to go and get vaccinated as we’ve seen those vaccination rates rise right across the country, means it’s now time that Australians are able to reclaim their lives.
“We’re beating Covid, and we’re taking our lives back.”
Morrison said it was a stunning achievement that over half of the adult population has now been vaccinated.
“Whether you’re in locked-down Melbourne, or on the verge of once again opening up in Sydney or living life near normal in Perth, we all have cause for celebration today,” he said.
“We have now administered more than 30 million vaccines around the country.
“That’s 82.2 per cent of eligible over 16s who have had a first dose, and 61.9 per cent with both doses.
“In fact, of the whole population, more than half of Australians are now vaccinated.”
Morrison said Australia’s first-dose vaccination rate was higher than in Germany and the United States.
“I can understand in Victoria how tough the case numbers from today and the last few days must be,” he said.
“However there is light at the end of the tunnel as we’re seeing in NSW, as Victorians continue to get vaccinated in record numbers and I thank you for that.
“We can’t be complacent. We still have to take one step at a time safely and ensure we always put that safety goal first as we reopen our country.”
The nation’s capital Canberra hit over 95 per cent first dose and 72.8 per cent fully vaccinated today.
“Both NSW and the ACT rank would actually rank, if they were countries, in the top 10 countries in the OECD in terms of first dose vaccinations – that is an amazing achievement,” Morrison said.
“Victoria isn’t far behind with 85.5 per cent of over 16s having had their first dose, and 58.6 per cent who are fully vaccinated.
“Victoria’s first dose vaccination rate is now higher than the United Kingdom’s.”
“Tasmania – despite having virtually no Covid in the community – continues to see its vaccination level jump each and every day and is just under 80 per cent first dose.
“Western Australia and Queensland will very shortly break through the 70 per cent first dose mark, while reaching over 50 per cent double vaccination.”
“Please go and get your second jab. And check with your friends and family if they’ve had the jab.”
Earlier this month Morrison announced the new framework the states will need to meet before they can agree to reopen international travel.
He said Australia was moving towards Phase C of its reopening plan and would hit that goal next month, when the nation has 80 per cent of its population double-vaccinated.
But a number of hurdles need to be cleared before international flights resume again.
Morrison said Australia was also working towards “completely quarantine-free travel for certain countries such as New Zealand when it is safe to do so”.
He first announced Australia’s border closure on March 20, 2020, to all non-citizens and non residents.
Even Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family needed to apply for an exemption to travel and to quarantine at a hotel for 14 days on arrival at a cost of more than $3000.
The new rules for international travellers will allow travel for double-vaccinated Australians and require pre-flight Covid tests.
The international border ban was initially in place until December 17 but that will now be lifted a month earlier than previously planned.
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