Australia's sweeping ban on international travel is likely to last until 2021, following an extension of the 'biosecurity emergency period' which enables the Federal Government to place restrictions on overseas flights and cruise ships.
The Government this evening announced that the Human Biosecurity Emergency Period declared under the Biosecurity Act 2015 would run for an additional three months.
The order, which has been in place since March 18, will now continue until December 17 2020, Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced.
"The extension of the emergency period was informed by specialist medical and epidemiological advice provided by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC)," Hunt said.
"The AHPPC has advised that the international and domestic COVID-19 situation continues to pose an unacceptable public health risk. The extension of the emergency period is an appropriate response to that risk."
Under the biosecurity emergency declaration permits the government to impose
- restrictions on overseas travel
- restrictions on the entry of cruise ships into Australia
- protections for the supply and sale of certain essential goods
- restrictions on retail stores at international airports
Prime Minister Scott Morrison last month said it was "unlikely" that Australia's borders will open by Christmas, while the prospects of a 'trans-Tasman travel bubble' for quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand now looking more like a 2021 proposition.
Morrison said that although he "would welcome (international travel) by Christmas if were possible, I think it’s unlikely that we [will be] able to move back to a restriction-free society [by then]," he said. "I doubt that is going to happen, and I doubt the medical situation will enable it."
“It’s important that we just look, and test and interrogate the medical evidence and make decisions based on that and nothing else,” Morrison added.
The July federal budget noted that "from 1 January to 30 June 2021, it is assumed that the travel ban is lifted, but that a two-week quarantine period is required of arrivals to Australia."
Travel ban exemptions
Most Australians continue to require government permission to travel overseas, beyond those who qualify for a general exemption – such as those involved in the operation or safety of flights, essential travel for work or on official government.
Applications for special exemptions can be made based on 'a compelling reason for needing to leave Australian territory', according to The Department of Home Affairs, with some examples including:
- a person whose travel is essential for the conduct of critical industries and business
- a person receiving urgent medical care not available in Australia
- a person who is travelling on urgent and unavoidable personal business
- travel on compassionate or humanitarian grounds
- travel that is in the national interest
However, for many applicants, getting that authorisation hasn’t proven a straightforward task.
While some requests have been processed promptly, others applicants say they've received no response at all from the Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Border Force, even after the international flights they’d booked had long departed.