When will Australia reopen?

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Australia had until recently been very fortunate to have avoided major COVID-19 outbreaks. However, the arrival of the delta variant has been a huge setback with many urban centres under lockdown once again.

The country has had some of the strictest restrictions on travel for both foreign passengers and Australians. Naturally, questions are being asked about when regular travel to and from the country will begin again.

When is tourism likely to resume?

Currently, Australia’s travel restrictions are due to continue until at least the end of 2021. Nevertheless, it is expected that the country won’t resume tourism until early 2022.

At the moment it is not possible to travel to Australia at all. Normally tourists are allowed to enter the country with a visa or visa waiver such as the Australian ETA. However, these authorizations are currently suspended due to the imposed health restrictions. They should be continued once tourism recommences. 

To find out more information about the entry requirements to Australia for your nationality, click this link.

It is expected to take until the middle of the decade for normal travel to resume

Some experts are pessimistic about the return to pre-pandemic normality for Australia. With travel restrictions likely to continue into 2022 and some limits lasting much longer.

In a recent study by Deloitte, it is predicted that tourist volumes won’t reach 2019 levels again until at least 2024. According to TimeOut, it is also expected that some quarantine measures will remain in place until that point.

However, this is only one prediction. A lot rests on the vaccine program both in Australia and globally.

Up until now, the vaccine rollout has had a sluggish start in Australia but has started to gain pace. At present over 50% of Australians have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.

What is the current situation across Australia?

Australia is dealing with rising COVID cases due to the arrival of delta variant within its territory. As a result the borders are closed to most passengers and the majority of states have local curbs on movement and entertainment. Most jurisdictions also enforce mask wearing in public places.

Travel restrictions for passengers

Most passengers cannot enter Australia under the current restrictions. There are only a few exceptions that are allowed.

At present, only the following people may enter Australia:

  • Australian citizens
  • Permanent residents of Australia
  • Immediate family of permanent residents and citizens
  • Escorts of Australian citizen or resident minors
  • Passengers transiting in Australia for 72 hours or less
  • People who have been in New Zealand in the 14 days before arrival
  • Diplomats and their immediate family
  • Airline and marine crew
  • People approved under the Seasonal Worker Program or Pacific Labour Scheme
  • Business Innovation and Investment visa holders
  • Holders of Temporary Activity visas in the Post COVID-19 Economic Recovery Event stream 

It is necessary to provide supporting evidence that you fit one of these criteria if you do travel to Australia.

Those that are permitted to enter the country will also have to quarantine. They must spend 14 days in a government-run hotel quarantine site, which must be funded at their own expense. 

Australia and New Zealand previously operated a travel bubble scheme, allowing both countries’ citizens to visit each other’s territory. However, this has been suspended due to the rise in domestic COVID cases in both countries.

Local restrictions in Australian states

Each state in Australia can set its own rules on COVID management. This includes actions like closing state borders, restricting travel in and out of the state and imposing quarantine on interstate travellers.

New South Wales

Sydney is currently under lockdown with locals not allowed to leave or enter the city except for essential reasons. People arriving from out of state must provide a travel declaration.

Victoria

Visitors to Victoria need a permit to enter the state. Some of the state’s borders have also been closed with New South Wales. People returning to Victoria from red zones such as Brisbane and Australian Capital Territory (ACT) must quarantine for 14 days on arrival.

Queensland

Queensland has imposed border restrictions on New South Wales. Essential workers may enter from NSW but must have had at least one COVID vaccine before they arrive.

People from some areas such as Darwin and ACT are barred from entering the state. Queensland residents returning from hotspots must quarantine for 14 days in a hotel at their own expense.

Western Australia

Visitors to Western Australia must apply for permission before travelling there from high risk states. These are defined as places with more than 50 daily cases of COVID-19.

Arrivals from high risk areas must also prove they have at least 1 shot of a COVID vaccine. They must also provide a negative PCR test taken less than 72 hours before travel. 

Anyone coming into Western Australia from an area that is not designated as ‘very low risk’ must quarantine for 14 days on arrival.

Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

At the moment ACT is under lockdown and non-residents from other locked down areas may only enter for exceptional circumstances. However, people arriving from other states not subject to lockdown are free to enter the region.

Travellers who reside in the ACT must fill out an online exemption form before travelling back. They must also undergo 14 days of home quarantine when they arrive back in the state.

South Australia

The borders between South Australia with Victoria, New South Wales, ACT and Queensland are currently closed. Only essential workers and people with exceptional circumstances are permitted to enter from these areas.

Travellers from other states can enter SA. However, they must undergo PCR tests on day 1, 5, and 13 of their arrival. They must also quarantine until they receive their first negative test.

Northern Territory

Lockdowns are currently in effect in Darwin, Palmerston and Katherine. Arrivals from COVID-19 hotspots are not allowed to enter the state without proof of residency or meeting requirements for exceptional circumstances.

Tasmania

Arrivals from New South Wales, the ACT and Victoria may not enter Tasmania without special permission. Visitors from other high-risk areas in Australia also face similar restrictions.

Residents travelling back to Tasmania from a locked-down area elsewhere in Australia must also take extra steps to comply with restrictions. This requires them to obtain an essential traveller permit and undergo 14 days of quarantine on arrival.

As Australia undergoes struggles with the delta variant it’s not certain exactly when the country will reopen. However, with mitigations in place and vaccinations underway it is hoped that the situation can be brought under control in the shortest possible time.