More than 150 Australians who had been desperately trying to get home from abroad since the coronavirus pandemic struck have arrived safely in Darwin, where they will undertake 14 days in quarantine. The Prime Minister, speaking after National Cabinet on Friday, reiterated the federal government’s goal to bring home all the stranded Australians by Christmastime.
Despite firm warnings from Victoria Police and the Victorian Premier, 200 to 300 protesters gathered at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne on Friday. Police reportedly used pepper spray and made several arrests at the anti-lockdown rally, which was an unlawful gathering under the state’s strict Stage 4 rules.
Meanwhile, optimism is growing across Melbourne after the Premier signalled “significant announcements” would be made on Sunday, after the state recorded just one new case of coronavirus and no deaths on Friday. NSW health confirmed no new locally acquired cases of coronavirus on Friday, for the first time in more than a week.
With Australia and much of the world currently in various levels of lockdown due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, society's dependence on air travel has been placed on an indefinite hiatus. Australian citizens arriving back in the country from overseas are now expected to spend two weeks in mandatory government quarantine, and are a provided a hotel room to stay in until the fortnight is over.
Qantas, Australia's national airline, has cancelled all international flights for the foreseeable future, starting in March 2020. At present, there is a ban on all overseas travel from Australia, except for those who obtain legal exemptions.
Aside from those who gain legal travel exemptions, it was announced on August 16 that Australia will be opening its borders for almost 7,000 returning international students who have been stranded offshore under a pilot program, however this does not extend to other temporary visa holders. Although, in May, they predicted international travel would return to full capacity in 2023, the delayed timeline and “more pessimistic outlook” is the result of multiple influencing factors, including the U.S. and developing economies' slow containment of the virus, reduced corporate travel and weak consumer confidence.
IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac elaborated on the reasoning behind the extended forecast in a statement, saying : “Consumer confidence is depressed and not helped by the UK's weekend decision to impose a blanket quarantine on all travelers returning from Spain.
The IATA's latest statement also included data regarding domestic travel markets around the world, revealing that Australia's local airline sector amongst the worst hit by the pandemic, and also proving to be one of the slowest to recover. According to the statistics, revenue per passenger per kilometer declined 94% compared to where it was in July 2019, making it the country with the biggest drop in the world.
In early September 2020, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce spoke at an aviation conference where he said the 15-minute test is “a reason to be optimistic”. “There are some great developments in testing that could resolve the issue of people needing to go into quarantine,” he said at the CAP Australia Pacific Aviation Summit.
Per Joyce, the tests could mean there would be “no need to be in quarantine at the other end” and potentially open up “bubbles” with countries like New Zealand, Japan and some other parts of Asia. Although still subject to the COVID-19 situation in each state, most state premiers, bar Western Australia's, have revealed road maps for lifting borders restrictions in time for Christmas, so families can see each other, and to potentially move towards a hotspot model instead of a blanket border closure after that.
Borders are closed to visitors from Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, which have been declared COVID-19 hotspots. Any person who has been in a declared COVID-19 hotspot during the past 14 days, including Victoria and greater Sydney, cannot enter and will be turned away from the border.
The Australian Capital Territory is joining NSW in easing border restrictions for Victorians from November 23, and is currently open to all other interstate travelers. QLD Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk said on Thursday low coronavirus case numbers in Victoria are “very encouraging” and could allow Queensland to open its borders to the southern state by Christmas.
Western Australia will introduce a controlled border arrangement from Saturday, November 14, provided every state and territory meets a 14-day rolling average of fewer than five community cases per day of COVID-19. In the Northern Territory, strict border controls are in place for all arrivals, including returning Territorials.
Tasmania’s borders are open to travelers from low-risk areas including New Zealand, and all Australian states and territories excluding Victoria. Information on WA’s controlled interstate border arrangement, conditions of entry and quarantine.
Effective 12.01am, Monday, January 25, travel from NSW and Queensland is permitted, subject to 14 days of self-quarantine and COVID-19 testing. WA is in a safe and sensible controlled border arrangement, based on public health advice.
They are also subject to conditions, including completing a G2G PASS declaration prior to entry. WA’s Chief Health Officer continues to closely monitor community transmission in other states and territories, and will advise the WA Government if any changes to our borders are required to keep Western Australians protected.
As part of our safe and sensible controlled border arrangement, conditions of quarantine apply to travelers coming into WA. These conditions apply to travelers arriving from a low risk state or territory.
Travelers from medium risk states and territories are not permitted to enter unless exempt. Travelers from low risk states and territories are encouraged to download and use the app.
If a suitable premise is not available, you will be directed to a Government approved quarantine facility at your own expense. Approved travelers are subject to a COVID-19 test within 48 hours of arrival and on day 11 of quarantine, or at any point when symptoms develop.
You must wear a mask from when you enter WA until you arrive at suitable self-quarantine premises or government approved quarantine facilities. Travelers from low risk states and territories are encouraged to download and use the app.
Scott Morrison also cast doubt on the complete lifting of restrictions anytime soon, as Victoria battles to contain its coronavirus outbreak. While Australians are still hopeful the day is coming when they can holiday overseas or even return to their normal routines, it’s unlikely it’ll happen in 2020.
Addressing media on Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it appeared international borders and coronavirus restrictions were not going anywhere just yet. That was before the second spike in Victoria, which on Monday recorded 322 new cases and looks like significantly setting back previous plans to reopen the economy.
Interstate borders are again shut, and the federal government has withdrawn the pressure it had been placing on state premiers to allow the free flow of domestic travelers. The disappearance of international students alone poses a $40 billion threat, with inbound tourists spending that amount again each year.
Scott Morrison said he wants interstate travel allowed in Australia before Christmas. On Friday, he made clear that based on the current trajectory of COVID-19 cases nationwide, continuing border restrictions would become obsolete, naming it a “recipe for economic ruin”.
“Well look, I believe we can, domestically,” he said on Christmas being a feasible date to expect the easing of border closures. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian urged people to be vigilant, but ensured that fluctuation in case numbers is to be expected for the “next little while”.
The PM sees the combination of NSW's sustained case number and Victoria's as reason to lower restrictions. “But what will protect Queensland will be their testing and their tracing capabilities and COVID-safe behaviors by their population and local outbreak containment.
At the moment, only Australian citizens, residents, and immediate family can visit the country, and they must self-impose a 14-day quarantine at a designated facility like a hotel after landing, according to Tourism Australia. Australia currently has nearly 7,409 cases of coronavirus and 102 people have died, per Johns Hopkins University data.
An overseas travel ban remains in effect for Australians, meaning they cannot leave the country, but the government is coordinating “travel bubbles” which could allow Australians to visit other low-risk destinations like New Zealand. More remote areas like Northern Territory and Tasmania remain closed to non-essential travel, Tourism Australia also said.