COVID-19: overseas arrivals slashed, home quarantine trial

Under a pilot program, fully-vaccinated Australians would be permitted to spend just seven days in home quarantine.

By David Flynn, July 2 2021
COVID-19: overseas arrivals slashed, home quarantine trial

International arrivals to Australia will be halved to just over 3,000 passengers per week until early 2022, while home quarantine will be trialled for vaccinated travellers, in the opening stages of the government's new four stage plan for a "pathway out of COVID."

Prime Minster Scott Morrison outlined the roadmap following this morning's meeting of the National Cabinet, saying that the country was now in  phase 1 or a "suppression phase".

Morrison suggested that from Phase 2 and beyond, fully vaccinated Australians would see fewer limits placed on their international travel and the need to quarantine upon return to the country.

"I hope we’re living in that second phase next year," Morrison later added, although he refused to nominate more specific dates or timeframes.

Arrivals slashed by 50%

In a blow to the estimated 34,000 Australians still stranded overseas and wanting to return home, phase 1 will halve the number of people allowed into the country for at least the next six months, in response to the growing threat of COVID-19's virulent Delta strain.

The current weekly cap on international arrivals stands at 6,070; the new lower limits will be in place by July 14, although some states may move sooner to reduce flights.

The decision comes almost 12 months to the day when Australia first introduced its controversial cap on international arrivals on July 13, 2020, with Morrison confirming the new limits would likely remain in place until early 2022.

The government will to boost the number of underwritten flights which operate as charter services – the bulk of which have been flown by Qantas – and will arrive at Darwin's dedicated Howard Springs quarantine facility, which Morrison said now has ample spare capacity.

Morrison later agreed that the additional repatriation flights "obviously can't fully ameliorate the impact of the reduction of 50%, particularly out of Sydney."

Read more: Foreign airlines consider suspending Australian flights

Home quarantine trial for vaccinated travellers

It's intended that arrival caps will be later removed for fully vaccinated travellers, who could also be allowed to quarantine for seven days at home rather than 14 days in a hotel.

In the coming months, Adelaide will serve as the test city for a trial of seven-day home quarantine for returning vaccinated travellers, and other cities could follow.

Morrison said expert medical advice "shows that a vaccinated person doing quarantine for seven days is stronger than an unvaccinated person doing quarantine for 14 days."

A "digital vaccination certificate" would be used to indicate a passenger's vaccination status, which could include the government's own own MyGov and Express Plus Medicare app as well as the likes of the Apple Wallet.

The government has also been in discussions with the International Air Transport Association over national adoption of its Travel Pass app, which is already being used by dozens of airlines including Qantas.

Pathway out of the pandemic

Morrison described the four-stage plan for Australia's recovery from the pandemic as "the pathway out of COVID-19."

Click here to download a PDF of Australia’s National COVID-19 Response Plan

"This is a pathway from a pre-vaccination period which has focussed on suppression of the virus on community transmission cases, to one which sees us manage COVID-19 as an infectious disease like any other in our community."

While Australia is now deep in Phase 1, subsequent "post-vaccination phases" will be triggered when the country reaches specific vaccination thresholds which will "be determined by modelling," Morrison said.

"Post-vaccination settings will focus on prevention of serious illness, hospitalisation and fatality."

Key steps will include recognising and adopting "the existing digital Medicare Vaccination Certificate" and the establishment of "digital vaccination authentication at international borders."

Phase 2 would see arrival caps restored to previous levels for unvaccinated travellers, with "higher levels of arrivals" for vaccinated passengers, with vaccinated Australians able to travel overseas to selected countries.

"I hope we’re living in that second phase next year," Morrison later added, although he refused to nominate more specific dates or timeframes.

State lockdowns would be enacted "only in extreme circumstances to prevent escalating hospitalisation and fatality", the plan says.

"New reduced quarantine arrangements for vaccinated residents" would be introduced, while the country would also move to roll out what's likely to become the first in a series of annual vaccine booster programs.

Travel corridors and bubbles

Phase 3 would be a "consolidation phase", Morrison said, "where we manage COVID consistently with public health management of other infectious diseases."

"That basically means that the hospitalisation and fatality rates that you would see from COVID-19 would be like the flu."

Vaccinated Australians would be "exempt from all domestic restrictions", with no limit on the number of returning vaccinated travellers.

It's also proposed to "extend (the) travel bubble for unrestricted travel to new candidate countries", citing Singapore and the Pacific as examples.

This is likely to be along the same lines as the current Australia-New Zealand travel bubble, which requires neither vaccination nor COVID tests before departure or on arrival, and could be preceded by more tightly-controlled 'COVID-safe corridors' where travellers must be vaccinated and take a test on arrival.

Finally, Phase 3 would see the government "lift all restrictions on outbound travel for vaccinated persons," although this doesn't rule out the need to quarantine on return.

Phase 4 would be "back to normal", or perhaps the new normal, allowing

  • uncapped inbound arrivals for all vaccinated persons, without quarantine; and
  • uncapped arrivals of non-vaccinated travellers subject to pre-flight and on arrival testing.

However, this might not potentially be reached until the end of 2022 or even early 2023.

Click here to download a PDF of Australia’s National COVID-19 Response Plan


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

15 Aug 2018

Total posts 25

What an appalling plan. Locking out citizens for another six months. Tens of thousands will have their bookings cancelled. 

Vague promises of home quarantine sometime in the future and normality in 2023. 

Sam Kekovitch’s Lamb ad on borders has turned out to be a documentary rather than satire. 

China Airlines - Dynasty Flyer

22 Sep 2012

Total posts 74

I think the only redeemed action the government can take is to ban all foreign travellers who are coming for business purposes or international students. This has to be more strict with penalties to airlines if they take someone who coming for those reason.

States want lower numbers then they need to take the penalty. Only reopening when phase 2 starts. I was looking at flights out of China recently. The price was 12,000 Australian dollars. I suspect out of China students are scrambling to get into Australia to start their university studies.

My current plan had changed not to travel until the begining of 2022 (Jan/Feb) to drop my son off for some schooling so I really really hope by then phase 2 is fully implemented. 

Also phase 2 should be dumping the daily results of covid positive tests and instead only take note of those needing to go to hospital. 

finally a road map is coming

I wish. The agreement was to have a plan, with in principle agreement to four stages. The dot points, particularly stage two on, are all things that the plan "mightinclude".. The only definite appears to be the curring of the caps, and the freight arrangements 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jun 2018

Total posts 14

At least now there appears to be a plan.  Not a very ambitious one as the second phase should be a lot earlier than 2022, but nonetheless a plan.

7 day home quarantine is a lot more appealing than 14 days in a hotel and at a substantial saving to the traveller and the taxpayer.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Feb 2020

Total posts 29

That’s not a plan. A plan includes both measurable deliverables and dates for those deliverables. That’s spin


03 Mar 2015

Total posts 21

Absolutely disgusting.  This just another political stunt.

How can a government not see its failings regarding quarintine.  Only a fool would bring potentially infectious people into a city and place them in accommodation not designed to prevent spread.   This failure has affected us all.  The billions lost in local business and peoples mental health affected by keeping families apart.  Due to the failure in the quarantine system.   When people request to leave Australia.  The reason the government gives is "Not Essential Travel", yet Tony Abbot can travel to have mass with the Pope.  How is that essential?  Just another way to control and keep money from leaving our migrant country.

 If there is to be a Quarantine do it properly.   I would be willing to pay in advance so I can leave Australia and be with my elderly parents. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 462

Fully vaccinated travellers should have no quarantine requirement at all, and be exempt from any future lockdowns. Do that, and there will be a huge surge in people getting vaccinated.

20 Jun 2020

Total posts 33

Vaccinated travelers can still get infected and pass it onto others who aren't vaccinated. Until a significant portion of the population is vaccinated it's not reasonable to allow vaccinated travelers to be exempt.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1024

There is no data to suggest that.

While there have been a small amount of fully vaccinated people becoming infected, the viral shedding in those cases have been low and there is not enough data to know if they can still pass it on to others.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jun 2019

Total posts 1

There's actually no science behind this... that "asymptomatic" persons can carry and pass on the disease. This was a fib of Fauci's early on.

The whole thing is beyond a joke.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

28 Jun 2020

Total posts 3

If they're going to low-risk countries (Singapore) then they should definitely avoid quarantine with a negative test

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jan 2017

Total posts 23

I've been exposed to Covid twice in the last three weeks (as can be expected in a country that now has 25,000 new cases each day), and have completed self-isolation for both circumstances. My second exposure was with two other friends at a music festival. 

Myself and one of the other friends had our second AZ vaccines in May, the other friend has had one Pfizer vaccine. A combination of  PCR and lateral flows test every second or third day over the last three week have all returned negative. So at least in a small sample it appears that being infected, let alone passing the virus on is demonstrably lowered by being vaccinated. 

The UK Govt is currently considering removing self-isolation for fully vaccinated people that have had a close contact with a person who tests positive, and replacing it with daily lateral flow tests.

As another aside to how things are going over here - next week I'll be going to Wimbledon. As I've been double vaxxed, I don't need to have a negative test before entering the gates.

The UK Govt made a lot of mistakes in the first 12 months, but they have executed the vaccine programme properly, and when they issued a roadmap four or five months ago, they included dates and triggers so that everyone knew what was going on. The document issued by the Australian Govt is a joke with the only number and date mentioned being related to reducing capacity.

As a result, I told my father this morning that I doubt I'll be back in Aust to celebrate his 80th in March.

03 May 2021

Total posts 47

They’re not really ‘exempt’ they are still quarantining at home

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jul 2017

Total posts 20

I am going to be interested to see how this works. this doesn't seem a reasonable exit strategy to me...just delaying things further. Elsewhere in the world things are already returning to normal, my friends in the UK, US etc are returning to regular travel and British Airways/Easyjet etc are regularly sending me ads for their international flights. 

There is a real danger we get left behind. Once everyone has the opportunity to get vaccinated I believe we should open back up and let people travel where they want to. Make them have a test on their return and do a week in isolation at home is fine but this is just cruel. I haven't been able to see my 80+ year old father for almost 18 months I couldn't bear not seeing my family members for another year! 

No problem with having different rules for different locations but it should be based on what is happening at the time. We are going to have COVID here unless we shut our borders forever. 


11 Jul 2014

Total posts 967

The two big things I see are the lack of vaccinated people and does a vaccinated person still shed if they get covid-19? It's been a very poor effort by the government and I'm not saying Labor would have done much better, actually very disappointing.


20 Sep 2019

Total posts 14

in Qld our disgrace of a government has had plenty of vaccines go to waste and have to be thrown out because of their incompetence

05 May 2016

Total posts 619

A roadmap with no dates or vaccination targets firmly set isn't worth the paper it's written on. They need to specify dates and/or vaccination targets and have the premiers come out publicly and say that they have agreed to the plan so the governments can be held accountable if they don't adhere to it.

29 Mar 2017

Total posts 16

For all those who are cheering about the prospects that a plan has finally emerged, I seem to recall that the PM was holding a PowerPoint presentation slide about 14 months ago indicating the prospects of implementing trial programs for overseas students returning (with such programs starting as early as July 2020).  My personal belief is that nothing will happen unless the general population accepts that we have a suppression strategy (including reaching the much awaited mass vaccination target) and we need to move on after reaching this target.  Unless this happens, overseas travel for vaccinated Aussies will remain just a dream.


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1423

I expect phase 2 will be in three months time as vaccinations get up to around 50-60%. There will be some wriggling about first or second dose. Also ScoMo said vaccinated travellers will sit outside the cap, so possibly not quite so dire.

03 May 2021

Total posts 47

Are you kidding me phase 2 won’t be until 2022 when you have Scotty and his ‘national cabinet’ getting literally no one vaccinated


04 Apr 2014

Total posts 209

So as a vaccinated Australian living in the US does this mean I can skip quarantine? So many questions.

25 Jun 2021

Total posts 29

At least we are starting to move forward. 7 days at home is better than 14 in a box, but I still question that someone who's had the vaccine is considered more of a risk than someone who has not had it. This will never work with bringing travellers back, but he said 2023 for that anyway. QANTAS said no travel unless you have had a vaccine, will others do the same?

Are they going to mix vaccinated travellers with none vaccinated ones? 


20 Sep 2019

Total posts 14

this is such a disgrace. What a bunch of complete muppets running this country both in the states and then the federal government.

when is the federal governemnt and a state government going to stop playing political games, finger pointing, the scare tactics and trying to win politcal points about everything, stand up and make decisions that allow the country to get back on its feet again. the whole situation is a complete and utter farce

if people are vaccinated, let them come here, open up the borders, allow travel back in, allow Australians home and others here who have family or work.

If you want the country to get vaccinated, give people an incentive to get vaccinated. for all of us vaccinated, what is the outcome and benefit for us. allow vaccinated people their freedom. allow us who have our businesses overseas and are vaccinated to get back to them without having the issues of ridiculous crazy flight costs back in and 2 weeks of quarantine on top.

if people are deciding not to get vaccinted, then let them suffer the consequences for their choices and allow the economy to get back on its feet again.

what a joke. this country's political direction, the overgoverned, over-ruled and over-restricting nanny state is becoming less andless appealing to call home, whcih is sad seeing it should be such an amazing country with so many natural assets

03 May 2021

Total posts 47

It’s all about the election, you see Scotty doesn’t care about those stuck overseas

27 Nov 2016

Total posts 25

Distressing & appalling! This is not a plan and This is not democracy. It certainly shows the worth of an Australian passport - zero! How citizens can be simultaneously detained in their own country or barred from returning is unfathomable. Literally no human rights in this country. And worse, a large percentage of our population think this is ok, well it’s not! 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Feb 2017

Total posts 4

Thank goodness they are slashing the number of incoming passengers. But let’s hope they start with those who are supposedly coming for business meetings and the like. ALL incoming passengers should be vaccinated - no vax, no entry. And for Pete’s sake, stop using hotels for quarantine. I’m sure there are many old army and miners buildings that could be used until government gets their act together and builds some quarantine facilities. Covid is not going away! 

31 Dec 2014

Total posts 46

What an absolute joke! What’s Morrison been doing these last 2 weeks? Building another cubby house for the lodge? Certainly not constructing a well crafted plan backed by evidence and supported by the premiers. There is no higher priority than getting Australia back to business and this lazy, back of the envelop, a dog ate my homework effort simply does not cut it.

If you’re not up to the job PM, get out of the way and hand the keys over to somebody who can.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

06 Mar 2019

Total posts 1

Proof of vaccination will include "MyGov and Express Plus Medicare app". I have had two Pfizer shots and only one (most recent) has been registered with MyGov and the Express Plus Medicare app. How is this supposed to work if they cant even get the registration right...assuming they will eventually use this as proof of vaccination.  

18 Sep 2018

Total posts 7

Have the international carriers who fly to Australia agreed to this? What happens if Qatar and Singapore Airways drop Australia? Surely they will consider focusing their efforts on regions that are opening up rather than shutting down.

05 May 2016

Total posts 619

A media organisation is reporting that commercial airlines may stop flying to Australia all together. The caps on passengers of 35 a flights are already stretching things. Halving caps may make it no longer commercial to fly here at all.

My take: This raises the question as to whether this is even legal again. If commercial flights stop completely one would expect at least one court case will follow challenging the cut to the caps. Australians have a right to be able to return home and an indefinite stop to all commercial flights would effectively be a ban.


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1423

Qantas can and will fill the gap. It is using passenger planes for cargo to all the main Asian ports and government charters elsewhere. If there are enough quota to fill it will carry passengers.

Tony Abbott has mass with the Pope, Scott Morrison + 20 staff go to the G7 in the UK, and a Cornish pub for lunch, although not members of the G7, Annastacia Palaszczuk, will be travelling to the Tokyo Olympics. Sounds a lot like 'do as I say, not what I do', sheer hypocrisy!!!!

11 Dec 2016

Total posts 42

As I said yesterday before this was announced - reducing the caps again is going to completely cut off Australia. How can an international airline operate widebody aircraft on an ultra long-haul route with only 17 passengers per flight?! This is an abomination. This isn't July 2020. There are thriving aviation markets elsewhere in the world where these assets can be deployed for a profit. 

I suspect United will keep flying because of its requirement under the US government contract but I doubt anyone else will. 

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

15 Mar 2019

Total posts 20

Not exactly clear what is being proposed.

We are UK citizens with family in Australia. We have been visiting them on an annual basis for some 20 years and would love to continue to do so, spending freely with the travel industry and local Australian businesses. We are both double vaccinated. We accept that this does not mean that we can not catch Covid and/or that we can't pass it on. It does suggest that if we catch it the chances of severe illness are greatly reduced asis the risk of passing the virus on.

We accept that there is a risk but it is one that we are willing to take in order to live a fulfilled life. We can only hope that the Australian population moves rapidly to double vaccination status and that the Government opens up the borders in the near future 

What happened to the travel bridges to and from countries that managed the Covid outbreak really well? 

KW72 Banned
KW72 Banned

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 236

Using my Australian passport as toilet paper. It is worthless at the moment and all the lockdown forever sheeple have panic buyed toilet paper anyway.

The federal government especially ScoMo has no idea what they are doing and haven’t from the start. By cutting numbers coming back into Australia they are putting more people at risk of mental health issues due to not being able to travel for compassionate reasons, but yet high profile people can come and go as they like. I was under the impression Australia was Thought of as the lucky country but it is now becoming the butt of jokes internationally.

Vaccination is the key but the mixed messages and no clear plan targets and dates don’t help this. Give people the incentive to have vaccine and maybe we might be able to reunite with loved ones before 2023. 

Too much Politics has been involved instead of scientific/medical guidance. For once the UK is showing the way forward. Yes higher cases at the moment but you have to look at hospital admissions and deaths which are not tracking the same - refer to SAGE.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

02 Dec 2016

Total posts 47

Pretty embarrassing for a first world country like Australia struggling to accept 6,000 international arrivals per week. This is due to ALP state premiers stuffing up quarantine etc and a weak PM who can't / won't control these disgraceful premiers. 

And fully vaccinated arrivals do not need to be quarantined at all !


13 Jan 2021

Total posts 7

Morrison acknowledged that a fully vaccinated person and 7 day home quarantine was safer than an unvaccinated person with 14 day hotel quarantine. Why delay, immediately start allowing vaccinated persons to do a 7 day home quarantine.

19 Feb 2020

Total posts 5

Absolutely comical if it wasn’t so serious. It staggers belief these muppets can make things even worse after more than a year of missteps.

As an expat in Europe I’ve given up trying to get home to see family, we’re fully vaxxed, even our youngest 12-year old has had the first dose of Pfizer, and it’s so much easier and cheaper to travel around Europe than to even consider Australia now. Fingers crossed UK and the US allow quarantine free arrivals soon, but for now we’re booked for travel to Greece, Italy and France over summer. They have realised fully vaccinated travellers pose a minuscule risk but help keep the economy ticking and the population sane.

Way to become even more isolated Australian government, hope you don’t come looking to your tax payers once the economic house of cards falls down. The blame falls squarely at the feet of Alcatraz Scotty and the Lockdown kids.

“Envy of the world”? …tell ‘em they’re dreaming.

03 Oct 2020

Total posts 4

Here is a roadmap/plan; vaccinate all the people. Drop all the Phases and Nanny State BS. Unless you limit inbound to zero its going to get in. Even then, it gets in as somewhere there is always an exception for “compassionate reasons”. Set up as many travel bubbles as you like but less than a week later you will be shutting them down as its been shown it will get in. The current plan of containment vs vaccination is not a plan. Everyone else in the world has 4 or more vaccine choices that are safe (I received Moderna in February) but somehow Australia thinks its special. Yep, that’s true. You are special as your vaccine policy is third world.


09 May 2020

Total posts 570

It is obvious that the NSW premier was reluctant to participate in halving the arrival caps, and she is certainly not asking for it even though NSW was in the midst of a COVID-19 spike for the last 2 weeks. 

And funny enough NSW was taking in more than 50% of the intake even before this reduction in cap, so if NSW keep its 3700+ arrivals per week cap it really makes the other states look bad and brings the NSW share to probably 75% (if NSW remains unchanged while the rest cut their cap).

Not sure how true the agreement of international arrival caps is binding (from the state point of view as some premiers claim) but certainly this narrative sure help to force the federal government to lean on NSW to accept the cap cut to maintain a unified front (even though ScoMo’s announcement on vaccine access to Astravenica vaccine for under 40s or 60s or whatever, already destroyed that illusion)


20 Sep 2019

Total posts 14

What is there for us to do to try and get things changed? How can voices be heard to make the governments begin to make progressive steps not regressive and start to act for the betterment of the country.

at the moment Australia feels like it has become the latest communist dictatorial country being treated like puppets locked in the country, locked in our homes when the government strategies are not working, having our incomes for so many of us obliterated. Not once have the politicians had to suffer financially from their decisions and their policieis, taking home their full pay packets each and every week and for some, awarding themselves pay rises for their complete and utter incompetence.

How much longer can we go on like this?

what can be done to have our voices heard?


09 May 2020

Total posts 570

Just think: most of the posts so far did not address the issue of home quarantine.

Granted we are sort of doing that by asking people to get tested and self isolate and trusting people to do it with the occasional checks (nothing as strict as Singapore or Taiwan or South Korea where many of these self isolators have a very high chance of getting checked on and even door knocked unlike those in Australia, think the experience in March April 2020 where the state government struggled to use their security apparatus for these purposes, and with great reluctance/resistance from police unions)

Also we are dealing with fully vaccinated travellers (and avoiding the tricky question of WHICH vaccines) with probably rapid tested negative before departure and on arrival, who will be making sure these people are following the rules? The state? The Commonwealth? What punishment and what powers of detention and where are they going to put them (and again who runs these detention/enforced quarantine centre)? How about those who live in regional or remote areas,( it’s even harder to police them!)? 

We have seen just one or 2 people not following the rules (last year but particularly in recent times with delta variant) causing such dramatic response in movement restrictions and frankly i don’t think we will be much higher than 70-75% vaccination rate and the states probably will not toe the official line/threshold they agreed upon at the National Cabinet (they will simply do what they want to do “based on the health advice” interpreted through the political lens)

God (and the devil) is in the details…..

09 Sep 2019

Total posts 7

Home quarantine question: Let's say mum & dad are fully vaccinated, but the kids are not, because they're under 12, and no vaccine has been approved for them yet (i.e. the family are as vaccinated as it's possible for them to be). Does the family get to do 7 day home quarantine? Or do the kids have to do 14 day hotel quarantine, because the kids aren't vaccinated, because there is no approved vaccine, and therefore at least one parent has to stay in hotel quarantine with them to look after them? If it's the latter, it basically kills this whole idea for families with younger kids.

26 Mar 2020

Total posts 67

There is no point to have travel bubbles under Phase 3 - I think the example cited was Singapore who will be fully opened to the world by the time Australia gets to phase 3.

If a country like Singapore is then fully reopened to the world then that defeats the purpose of a bubble.

The bubble concepts was based on pre-vaccination days - very few countries will be agreeing to a bubble when most are planning to have free and open borders again once their population is vaccinated. 

21 Sep 2020

Total posts 2

The federal government is 100% to blame for this mess , quite simply put they left it too late to order Pfizer vaccines and they put all eggs in one basket with AZ. Then they put draconian measures on AZ vaccine roll out ( no other country that administers AZ put a >60 limit on it). This latest plan is just spin with no substance.

Secondly , our PM caved in to left wing state leaders who dont give a stuff about the economy.

Australia is already at the back of the race to open up ( in fact is the worst performing first world nation).

Why cant double vaxed business people travel freely with PCR test before and after travel , home quarantine until results given. Your viral load is so low you are no threat to causing the spread of virus - this is a scientific fact.

26 Mar 2020

Total posts 67

Fully vaccinated people will not be exempt from any restrictions whatsoever it appears not until at least phase 3 which by the looks of it - won't be happening until at least mid 2022 or end of 2022 at the very earliest.

Thankfully Australia is not as extreme as New Zealand who's experts are talking about having lockdowns and the full raft of restrictions in place even after NZ is fully vaccinated. 

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