- Limit on international arrivals to be removed in November for fully-vaccinated travellers
- Home quarantine to replace hotel quarantine for overseas arrivals
- Sydney and Melbourne expected to be the first to welcome uncapped flights
Australia will remove the passenger cap on international arrivals in November for fully-vaccinated travellers, although it will be up to individual states to implement once they reach an 80% vaccination threshold.
The move is part of the lifting of Australia’s international travel ban and will help bring home the estimated 44,000 Australians who have registered with DFAT as remaining stranded overseas, many of them since March 2020 when the country closed its borders.
Initially, those flights will be available only to "Australians or permanent residents overseas to return if they haven't come back yet," says Federal Health Minuster Greg Hunt.
"It's not initially about opening up travel for other people from overseas. It starts with Australians who are fully vaccinated doing that."
Those returning Australians will need to have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 using a jab recognised by Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration.
The TGA currently recognises AztraZenica, Pfizer and Moderna, but the government has said that China's Sinovac and India's COVID Shield will also be given the nod, with the US single-shot from Johnson & Johnson also expected to be approved.
Novavax is still under evaluation, and the TGA has yet to recommend approving China'ss other major vaccine, Sinopharm.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the recognition of Sinovac and COVID Shield "will be particularly important for those coming from countries where those vaccines are being used. India is an obvious one of those, as is China and other countries throughout South-East Asia."
In addition to mainland China, over 80 other countries have incorporated Sinovac into their national vaccination program: among them Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Chile.
Fully-vaccinated Australians and permanent residents returning from overseas will be able to quarantine at home for seven days; unvaccinated travellers will still have to enter 14 days of quarantine at a hotel or dedicated facility, and at their own expense.
Australian citizens and permanent residents who cannot be vaccinated – such as those under 12 or with a medical condition – will be treated as vaccinated for the purposes of their travel.
Today’s decision is in line with the federal government’s Covid-19 response plan, which allowed that once full vaccination of the eligible adult population reached 80%, the caps on returning vaccinated Australians would be abolished – although this is now to state-based vaccination rates, rather than nation-wide.
Australia introduced strict limits on the number of overseas arrivals in July 2020 to reduce the pressure on hotel quarantine facilities, and in July 2021 reduced the cap to just over 3,000 people per week in an effort to stem the spread of the highly infectious Covid-19 Delta variant.