Government to trial overseas travel for vaccinated Australians

A 'pilot program' to begin in August would unlock international travel and provide further inducement to speed up vaccinations.

By David Flynn, June 2 2021
Government to trial overseas travel for vaccinated Australians

Australians who've been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 may be dusting off their passports in the coming months under a trial program to be rolled out by the Federal Government.

The scheme could allow them to travel to selected countries, including low-risk destinations, and return without facing quarantine provided they show a negative COVID result on arrival.

It would also recognise vaccinations received in other countries, in order to speed up the return of Australians stranded overseas.

According to The Guardian, Federal health minister Greg Hunt outlined the program in the Coalition party room on Tuesday morning and suggested it could be running in six to eight weeks.

A spokesman for Hunt confirmed the plan was tabled, telling The Guardian "the minister had previously stated on a number of occasions that vaccination may bring forward the capacity of vaccinated people to travel. Today's advice [to the party room] was consistent with that."

The scheme would serve as heavy artillery in the government's vaccination push, which continues to run behind schedule, and show tangible benefits for getting the jab.

The Guardian also reports that exemptions to the current travel ban would also apply to people vaccinated in countries where "vaccination status can be reliably verified – such as the UK, US, Canada and Singapore."

This would include many of the estimated 40,000 Australians stuck overseas, who could then return home, but might also extend to inbound tourists and business travellers.

Low-risk destinations

It's suggested that the trial could be rolled out alongside the introduction of an 'amber' grading for less risky countries, which would sit between the current 'green' category which for now applies only to New Zealand, and 'red', which today is basically the rest of the world.

Travellers arriving from 'amber' countries would face far less stringent quarantine rules.

"For example, fully vaccinated passengers returning from less risky countries could be allowed to take a rapid antigen test, and then a full COVID test, and leave quarantine after negative results," The Guardian suggests.

Qantas this week revealed it would offer a year of unlimited flights to ten Australians who had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of 2021 as the airline seeks to spearhead a push for vaccination incentives by Australia's largest companies.

"I'm encouraging a Team Australia moment for every other corporate to help with this vaccine rollout and to reward people that have had the vaccine," said Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has recently suggested that Australia could adopt the same Travel Pass app as being trialled by many airlines, on a national basis, as the "next most achievable step" as more Australians became vaccinated.

Travel Pass was developed by the International Air Transport Association to help manage the vaccination status and COVID test results of travellers, in line with the requirements of any given country.


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.