Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he is discussing a "vaccine passport system" with other nations, ahead of an unlocking of Australia's international borders and the resumption of overseas travel.
It's already planned that Australians will be able to carry a digital COVID-19 vaccination certificate on their smartphones, while a new digital version of the incoming passenger card for all inbound travellers could also include proof of COVID vaccination.
Morrison's comments come as the country gears up for a nation-wide COVID-19 vaccination campaign which is expected to see all Australians vaccinated by October.
The first batch of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines arrived on Monday and will be administered next week, with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine – of which some 50 million doses will be produced in Melbourne – to follow in March.
Under the Federal Government's national vaccine roll-out plan, most people eager to travel overseas will be eligible for their free COVID-19 vaccination from the middle of the year, once the two-jab COVID shots have been issued to a wide range of people spread across 'priority groups'.
Unlocking the borders
Morrison hinted that vaccination would be the prelude to revisiting the year-long lockdown which has left most Australians unable to fly overseas.
"I think it is a reasonable expectation that as time goes on, as the vaccination rolls out across the world and here in Australia, you should rightly expect that things will change and how we manage the virus,” he told reporters in Sydney, adding that he had already spoken with Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi about how vaccination could re-enable travel in the Asia-Pacific region.
As previously reported, the Federal Government will this month revisit the national border closures which have blocked overseas travel for almost all Australians, with the prospect of the current ban being extended to June in the face of newer, more virulent strains of COVID-19.
Qantas plans to resume most overseas flights by July 1 and is currently selling tickets for flights to Asia, the United States, London and South Africa.
It begins with a bubble
When Australia’s international border restrictions are eventually relaxed, overseas travel is likely to make a gradual return, starting with ‘bubble’ arrangements with specific countries such as New Zealand and Singapore.
“It may well be that we start on a country-by-country basis rather than opening up to the entire world, but again it depends what happens over the coming months,” Acting Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd recently suggested.
“We want to see a world where COVID-19 is much more under control,” before Australia’s international borders could return to normal, Kidd says.