Australia

An Overview of Australia’s Travel Restrictions Under the Covid-19 Pandemic

The good news made waves on 22nd February 2022 when Australia made the announcement.  To open its borders to international travelers to foreign travelers. Yay! Finally, it said every traveler who is keen to visit the picturesque beauty is accompanied by its figure-licking cuisine.  The continent of Australia has an extremely strict policy when it comes to containing the awful pandemic ravaging our lives.  We can call their measures nothing short of fortress level restrictions imposed on inter-country and especially international travel.

Australia reopens its borders to tourists after nearly two years. Yes, two whole years have passed since the virus named Covid-19. When it went from something we heard about on the news to something that ravaged our lives. Be it our physical and mental lives or destroying our social lives.   However, did you know that the country has rightly been called by the nickname ‘Fortress Australia’? Specifically, this follows the announcement of its decision on a travel ban. Furthermore, this stringent travel ban not only imposed a strict cap on international arrivals but also barred citizens from going overseas.

Amid the decline in Covid-19 cases as the third wave of coronavirus pandemic recedes, Australia reopens its borders to fully vaccinated tourists on 22nd February, Monday. The matey country has become known for its strict regulations. Australia travel closed its borders to almost everyone except citizens and residents in March 2020. Mainly in an attempt to slow surging Covid-19 case numbers. According to the WHO, currently, the number of confirmed cases in the country stands at an astounding 26,91,017 with 4,913 deaths. Despite 1.06 crores of doses given to fully vaccinated individuals standing at

 State of Australian Travel

Aerial View of Australia
Aerial View of Australia/ Credit: Hindustan Times 

Just as the country reopened its borders, there were jubilant scenes at the country’s two major international airports. Specifically, at the Sydney and Melbourne Airports where family and friends finally embraced each other in person at arrivals after years apart.

Additionally, the Australian government has launched an AUS$40 million ($28.7 million) advertising campaign to lure tourists back. Impressive spending on tourism by the Australian Government. Whereas only 56 international flights are on schedule to land in Australia in the 24 hours after the re-opening. However, this is far below pre-pandemic levels. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had “no doubt” traveler numbers will scale up in time.

Every month in Australia, travel restrictions have cost businesses an estimated AUS$3.6 billion. A shocking number, but the world is a global village. According to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, tourism is particularly hard hit.

However, the Australian Tourism Export Council issued a warning this week that there are worrying signs consumers are wary of traveling to Australia. Mainly as there is confusion over our various state travel restrictions and concern about snap border closures remains a key issue.

Western Australia Remains Closed to Travellers

View of Western Australia from boat/ Credit: SkynewsAustralia
View of Western Australia from boat/ Credit: SkynewsAustralia

Meanwhile, Western Australia will not re-open to international travelers on Monday, holding off until March 3. Until recently, the state had pursued a strict Covid-zero policy, cutting itself off from the rest of the country. The decision sparked lawsuits and the observation that it was easier for Australians to travel to Paris than Perth but proved popular with West Australians.

New transitional border arrangements are being introduced under WA’s Updated Safe Transition Plan. Mainly to allow for safe, compassionate travel into WA and the return of legitimate Western Australians.

Under the new hard border arrangements, approved travelers are permitted to enter WA. But with testing and quarantine requirements under the announced expansion of approved traveler categories.

Border Control Measures

  • people with direct legitimate family connections who enter WA to reconnect with their family (applies to a relationship akin to a direct relative, including an adopted family situation (child-parent relationship))
  • people with direct legitimate family connections in other jurisdictions who travel to reconnect with their family and then return to WA (applies to a relationship akin to a direct relative (including adopted family situations)
  • Whereas people who, within the last two years, had their ordinary place of residence in WA and are returning to permanently reside in WA
  • compassionate grounds, including funeral, palliative care, or terminally ill visitation of a direct lineal relative
  • member of the family of an approved traveler
  • people entering for urgent and essential medical treatment
  • senior government officials entering for reasons of national and state security
  • Commonwealth and State officials, Members of Parliament and diplomats
  • provision of time-critical specialist skills not reasonably available in WA, (e.g. including health and emergency service workers)
  • people required to attend court matters, judicial officers and staff of court, tribunals and commissions
  • special considerations and extraordinary circumstances determined by the State Emergency Coordinator or the Chief Health Officer.
International travelers are permitted to enter WA under strict requirements, including meeting Commonwealth requirements to enter Australia under the arrivals requirements.

Australia stepping-up to address COVID-19 in the Pacific

A Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster III from No. 36 Squadron at RAAF base Amberley delivered 12 pallets of humanitarian aid to Port Villa, Vanuatu, in support of the disaster relief efforts of the Government of Vanuatu © DFAT
A Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster III from No. 36 Squadron at RAAF base Amberley delivered 12 pallets of humanitarian aid to Port Villa, Vanuatu, in support of the disaster relief efforts of the Government of Vanuatu © DFAT

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a profound impact on Australia. As well as Australia’s neighbor, the Pacific. Whereas managing the social, economic, and health impacts of COVID-19 remains a central challenge for the region. Most importantly, Australia remains committed to the needs of our immediate neighborhood, as we face the pandemic together.

Australia’s COVID-19 response in the Pacific builds on years of cooperation in health, education, security, and disaster response. Since January 2020, Australia has worked with Pacific island countries and Timor-Leste to help them prepare for and respond to the pandemic. The Australian Government has been to more than 120 requests from our region for assistance since January. The government has adopted the aid program to provide immediate relief to help Pacific partners respond to the emerging health, economic, social, and impacts of COVID−19. There has been a continuance to provide COVID-19 testing kits, PPE, critical care equipment, and other medical supplies to our region, including AUSMAT specialists to Papua New Guinea.

Australia Travel Requirements

From the start of February 21, 2022, fully vaccinated international travelers can visit Australia for travel restriction-free for most of the country. However, the travel restrictions for the Western Australia region don’t expire until March 3, 2022.

The Australian Government Department of Home Affairs has a traveler’s checklist listing the entry requirements for eligible tourists. Please be sure to follow this checklist to provide any hassle while traveling to Australia:

  • Proof of full vaccination
  • Negative pre-arrival test result within 72 hours before departure
  • Complete a Digital Passenger Declaration (DPD) 72 hours before arriving

Whereas these national entry guidelines also apply to children as young as two months. Moreover, you will upload your travel documents for the airline to verify. It’s also a good idea to have a paper copy of your vaccination records to show airport authorities and local businesses for ease of travel. Especially during the unprecedented pandemic.

If you have an accompanying child with you who isn’t eligible for a coronavirus vaccine yet, need not worry. They can still enter with an accompanying guardian. But, it’s still likely that unvaccinated minors must complete a 7-day hotel quarantine per local travel restrictions. Be sure to follow these norms to keep your child and others safe from Covid-19 infection.

News South Wales and Victoria Testing Requirements for Australia Travel

The prevailing practice for regions, including New South Wales and Victoria, is to head directly to your hotel or lodging. Additionally, take a rapid antigen test (this can be an approved self-test) or a PCR test within the first 24 hours. Be sure to do this within the stipulated time frame.

You won’t have to self-quarantine if the result is negative. Yay, but, you must take another test on day 6 of your trip. A slight extra of both the precaution to ensure the safety of the traveler and the person they come into contact with.

In addition to these requirements, visitors should carry their vaccination proof. Mainly, to enter local businesses that require customers to be fully vaccinated and have a negative test result. Everyone just wants to be safe from this threat, so precautions are necessary.

 Requirements for Unvaccinated Travelers Flying To Australia

Unvaccinated travelers eligible for a vaccine cannot enter Australia for travel. Unless they have a travel exemption. Even with an exemption, a mandatory 7-day hotel quarantine applies in most situations.

Some of the possible exemptions include:

  • Cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons
  • Traveling for compassionate or compelling reasons (i.e., family death or sickness)
  • Escorting Australian citizens or permanent resident minors
  • Traveling at the invitation of the government
  • Providing critical skills or working in a critical industry
  • Students in participating programs
  • Prospective Marriage (subclass 300)

Unlike other foreign destinations, proof of a recent recovery from the virus isn’t a substitute for waiving the vaccine requirements. As a result, travelers without full vaccination status or with a medical exemption must complete a 7-day hotel quarantine.

The pre-arrival and post-arrival testing requirements are also applicable for an excursion as a part of Australian travel.

Interstate Travel Requirements

Road Trip to Australia/ Credit: Traveller
Road Trip to Australia/ Credit: Traveller

It’s possible to visit multiple regions of Australia and travel on the same trip without a transit visa. To do so, visitors from the United States and many other nations worldwide are eligible for transit without a visa (TWOV) status.

However, you must observe the travel guidelines for each state or territory.

Depending on your circumstances, you may need to undergo additional testing or quarantine. The international visitor guidelines apply for the first 14 days after you arrive from overseas.

It’s not possible to travel to other regions if you’re currently under mandatory quarantine or isolation.

If you test positive for Covid-19?

Mostly, you need to isolate yourself for seven days. Whereas your household will have to isolate themselves along with you. If you still have symptoms after seven days, keep self-isolating until 24 hours after they disappear. This needs to be followed in New South Wales and Queensland.

Whereas in the Northern Territory, you need to register your positive RAT online using the Northern Territory Government’s Rapid Antigen Test Declaration Form. You should complete this by 8 pm on the day you test positive. The vaccinations should be isolated for at least seven days – you can leave at noon on day seven if you have no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, keep isolating yourself until they clear or you receive a medical certificate saying you are no longer infectious. The unvaccinated must be isolated for 10 days. Children are considered vaccinated for isolation.

For seven days after isolating yourself, wear a mask whenever you’re outside your accommodation, and keep away from high-risk facilities. Whereas your little one who is under 12 does not have to wear a mask.

In Victoria, you need to isolate yourself for seven days, staying away from other household members as much as possible. If you took a RAT, you must report you’re positive result to the Victorian government online or call 1800 675 398. Household and household-like contacts must also be isolated for seven days.

If your RAT test was negative but you have Covid symptoms, isolate yourself and take another test in 24 hours. Mostly, you should remain isolated until symptoms disappear.

Challenges faced in Australia Travel

Road leading to Australian countryside/ Credit: HotelManagement
Australian road trip concept. Motion blurs the highway landscape at dusk with the mountain Ararat in the background. Victoria, Australia / Credit: HotelManagement

One of the challenges that Australian travel has always faced is people’s perceptions of our nation and our economy. They view the Australian economy as still being strongly aligned with resources and extractives. This is partly true. Lately, we’ve seen strong growth in the value of Australia’s goods and services exports. In 2018-19, the value of our exports was over 16%, or $470 billion. A lot of this, of course, was driven by increases in the value of resources and extracted exports. Meanwhile, we’ve seen strong growth on our service side, which translates as travel, tourism, and leisure. 

 Australia Travel in the Recent Past

In 2019, Australian travel saw approximately a growth of 4.7% over 2018. Eight and a half million people came to Australia in 2018; this means that roughly 970 people arrive in Australia every hour. Expenditure, in terms of total spending, was worth nearly $44 billion.

Following on from the bushfires over the Australian summer of 2019-20, the COVID-19 pandemic is having damaging and long-lasting impacts on tourism. In this challenging environment, TRA’s ( Tourism of Australia) role as a reliable and trusted source of information is now more important than ever. Find out more about our research into measuring the extent of the downturn, tracking the industry’s eventual recovery and support for Australian businesses.

Tourism in the Age of COVID-19

The Australian government is now facing an incredible challenge in this new era. Now that Australia’s borders are slowly opening, we obviously won’t see those 10 million international inbound tourists. And since the government is likely to keep the lockdown in place until we have an effective vaccination rate, we won’t see that for a while.

The duration of the border closure is critical to what the future looks like for Australian travel and our service exports. The impact on hotel chains, car rentals, and domestic aviation is going to be profound. In the short to medium term, businesses are looking at restructuring their debt, something that will happen across the board.

There will be operators looking for opportunities in Australian travel because they’ll see, for example, hotel chains, medium-sized market cap operators, coming under significant pressure. There will be opportunities to buy discounted or distressed assets if you take a medium- to long-term view that says that there will be a recovery, that it’s not going to be bad forever.

Conclusion

The longer we see quarantine and isolation, the more profound the impact on long-term consumer patterns and behavior. With ease in travel restrictions easing all over Australia, it can soon edge back to normal behavior. We might start to see hotels full again, though not likely with inbound international numbers, but perhaps with more domestic numbers of Australian travel. Be sure to tell me in the comment section if this overview was helpful in your travel plans for Australia.

Featured image: Sydney Opera House view/ Credit: Travelinglifestyle

 

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