Reliable reports are emerging of Australia lifting its travel ban as soon as November. The news follows a recent announcement from Qantas that it planned to resume some international flying in December.
Australia closed its borders to inbound and outbound travel in March 2020. While very limited numbers of Australian citizens have been allowed to return, only the well-connected have otherwise managed to secure permission to travel in and out of the country.
After nearly 18 months, the double standards and use of lazy blunt instruments to manage COVID-19 are beginning to wear very thin for many Australians – particularly those who have family, work, and other commitments offshore.
Earlier this week, the Australian Federal Government quietly extended the travel ban on ordinary Australians through to December. But just as the ban is extended with the stoke of a ministerial pen, so to can it be lifted.
According to David Crowe, Canberra correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald, the North Korea-style ban on Australians leaving their own country will be dropped in November. An announcement from Australia’s Canberra-based Federal Government on this is expected within days.
This coincides with a fast accelerating vaccination rollout around Australia and the Government deciding to get onboard the digital health passport concept.
It won’t be a free for all. The Government intends to initially allow travel to and from certain low-risk countries like New Zealand, the USA, and Singapore. Travelers will need to be fully vaccinated, a testing regime is likely to apply, and some self-isolation at home style arrangements will be enforced.
Good news for Qantas
An announcement from the Federal Government confirming this will cheer the folks at Qantas. Last month the airline said it planned to resume some international flying in December. The announcement was met with some skepticism at the time, but the usually well-informed airline looks like it may be on the money.
Earlier this week, a report in The Australian newspaper indicated airfare searches to destinations like London, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Singapore were up 175%. on the Qantas website But searches aren’t ticket sales. Online searches simply demonstrate interest. But when the Federal Government announces a travel restart date for vaccinated Australians, the buy button on the Qantas website will likely get a red hot workout.
“While it’s up to the government to determine exactly how and when our international borders re-open, Australia is on track to meet the 80% vaccination trigger by December, which means international travel is within reach,” Qantas’ Andrew David told the newspaper.
Fiji Airways has also sniffed the winds is gearing up to resume international flights based on borders reopening in Fiji and Australia.
There are still a few details to be clarified
To be clear, the possible November lifting of Australia’s travel ban is a well-placed rumor right now. But there is a federal election due in 2022, and the government knows lockdowns, internal border closures, international border closures, and other restrictions are deeply irritating many voters. In some cases, travel bans have had a catastrophic impact at the individual level. A government with an eye on getting re-elected knows it needs to starting playing nice.
While the message now is directed towards Australians wanting to leave the country, there is also an assumption entry restrictions will lighten. There will be a switch from 14-day hotel quarantine for vaccinated travelers to shorter self-managed stay-at-home periods – an altogether better proposition than two weeks in a mid-tier Marriott.
There is also no word on whether the welcome mat will get rolled out for vaccinated non-Australians. But on a purely equitable basis, you could assume that if the Australian Government expects the USA to let vaccinated Aussies in, Australia would be expected to return the favor. But it is the Australian Government; in this day and age, anything is possible with them.