As NSW released their road map out of lockdown in October, travel experts have predicted which overseas routes will be the first to open.
As NSW gears up to start reopening the state next month, after many long weeks of lockdown measures, a federal ban on Australians leaving the country may follow just weeks later.
With NSW well on its way to its 70 per cent double dose vaccination goal – with Premier Gladys Berejiklian pointing to an October reopening of pubs, restaurants and even domestic travel — overseas travel will likely not be far behind.
Ms Berejiklian announced on Thursday that vaccinated residents will be able to travel around NSW for leisure purposes once the state hits the 70 per cent inoculation mark. Once 80 per cent is reached, that border ban will be banished and overseas flights will make a welcome return.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph,Flight Centre boss Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner predicted the first route to open for NSW residents will be the UK, believing vaccinated residents may be able to sit in a pub in London before doing the same in Cairns.
“NSW has nothing to lose,” Mr Turner said. “They’ve got the infection. It doesn’t matter that they bring in more.”
With all eyes on November for overseas travel reopening, under Britain’s existing rules, visitors from “green list” countries, including Australia, are not required to enter quarantine as long as they have been Covid-tested in the three days before arriving and again on day two in the country.
Earlier this week, theSydney Morning Herald revealed the current federal ban on Australians leaving the country will be dropped as soon as November to start allowing qualifying Australians to use their “vaccine passport” to cross international borders.
According to the report, the revised international travel ban on Australians could be announced within days after federal cabinet discussed the changes on Wednesday night.
Mr Turner said that along with reopening routes to the UK, which he believes will be serviced by Emirates before Qantas also join in, he expected that the US, Canada, Singapore and flights to Fiji may all happen before Christmas.
Earlier this week, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce announced they will only allow vaccinated passengers to board their aircraft for international journeys, and a decision around domestic travel was yet to be made.
The airline announced at the yearly financial results in August that the carrier would restart international flights on December 18.
In a similar prediction to Mr Turner, Alan Joyce said the UK, US, Singapore, Japan and New Zealand will be the first corridors to open to Australian travellers. Places like Bali and Thailand will likely be the last on the list.
Currently, there are just eight reasons Australian citizens or permanent residents can leave the country — including;
– Your travel is as part of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including the provision of aid
– Your travel is for your business/employer
– You are travelling to receive urgent medical treatment that is not available in Australia
– You are travelling outside Australia for a compelling reason for three months or longer
– You are travelling on compelling or compassionate grounds
– Your travel is in the national interest
– You are ordinarily resident in a country other than Australia
Anyone leaving the country must receive an exemption from the Department of Home Affairs, however that rule is set to be revised as soon as the country’s vaccination rate hits 80 per cent of people aged 16 and over.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously assured Australians that international borders can and will open for individual jurisdictions should they reach that target early – such as NSW and Victoria who both may reach the target by November.
Currently, just 39 per cent of the eligible population – being Australians aged 16 and over – are fully vaccinated. In NSW however, more than 40 per cent of NSW residents are now fully vaccinated and more than 70 per cent have received their first dose of a vaccine.
On Wednesday, The Sydney Morning Heraldand The Age revealed the use of international vaccine passports will be used in conjunction with home quarantine for returning Australians – a concept which has partially been trialled in South Australia.
Since August, the SA home quarantine trial started with people returning from New South Wales and Victoria which Premier Steven Marshall said he hoped would be expanded to international travellers in “subsequent weeks”, making it a national first.
Essentially, those who enter home-based quarantine need to be fully vaccinated and also have a specialised SA government app on their mobile phone to prove they are staying home while required to. Then, the app will contact people at random asking them to provide proof of their location within 15 minutes.
If a person cannot successfully verify their location or identity when requested, SA Health will notify SA Police who will conduct an in-person check on the person in quarantine.
However one of the largest hurdles the vaccine passport will face is distinguishing which vaccines will be recognised and approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Currently, the TGA has approved AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
Speaking on Channel 9’s Today Show on Thursday, Chief Executive of Tourism and Transport Forum Margy Osmond said there were still “major issues” to be sorted before the international vaccine passports could be put into action.
“We have been working with the Government for many weeks now getting the practicality of this and I give them serious points in terms of the domestic vaccine pass,” Ms Osmond said on Thursday.
“Ditto with the international one … but there’s still major issues to be sorted out on the international ones. For example, whose vaccines are we accepting.
“We are like the duck on the surface of the water. The feet are going at a million miles an hour underneath to get this happening.
“In theory it shouldn’t take that long and agency like Home Affairs are very much across this at the moment … but November is not that far away …[but] it is not like we are the first cab off the rank. We can learn from places like France who seem to be doing it successfully.”