- Fully-vaccinated Australians will finally be allowed to leave the country
- Home quarantine to replace hotel quarantine on return from overseas
- State-by-state approach based on 80% vaccination, with NSW expected to be first
Australia's 18-month long ban on international travel will be lifted in November, allowing fully-vaccinated travellers to freely leave the country.
The current cap on international arrivals will also be removed for the double-jabbed, a move long awaited by 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.
However, both measures will be up to individual states to implement once they reach an 80% vaccination threshold.
NSW is expected to be the first to embrace the return of international flights, as the state will reach the 80% vaccination milestone in late October; Victoria is on track to hit that same mark by mid-November.
Queensland and Western Australia will hit 80% vaccination in the first weeks of December, but both states have repeatedly pushed back on reopening their borders until a time of their own choosing. South Australia is estimated to be at 80% full vaccination by December 3.
On a national basis, current estimates put Australia at 80% full vaccination around November 10.
"It's time to give Australians their lives back," said Prime Minister Scott Morrison in announcing the move following today's meeting of the National Cabinet.
Home quarantine for seven days
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.
Australia would also continue to work towards establishing "completely quarantine-free travel" for some countries, Morrison said, such as New Zealand and Singapore.
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A key qualification for stranded Australians returning from overseas will be which vaccines are recognised by Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration.
The TGA currently recognises AztraZenica, Pzifer and Moderna, but China's Sinovac and India's COVID Shield are also expected to be given the nod, along with Novavax and the US single-shot from Johnson & Johnson.
Airlines reopen flights
Airlines which have continued flying to Australia throughout the pandemic – including Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways and United Airlines – but were limited in the number of seats they could sell due to arrival caps will now be able to 'unlock' those flights.
While Qantas still plans a December 18 reboot for many international flights, the airline will bring forward the resumption of Sydney-London and Sydney-Los Angeles services to November 14.
The resumption of international travel will be accompanied by the introduction of an internationally-recognised 'vaccination passport' in both digital and paper forms, which will tie into a global QR code system to indicate vaccination status.
"Australians who want to travel overseas once restrictions are removed will be able to access an internationally recognised proof of vaccination document," Morrison said.
"That will be in the coming weeks, to prove their vaccination status abroad. And that proof of vaccination for international travel will include a QR code that is readable globally."