COVID-19: Australian Border restrictions update
Content of this Post:
The Prime Minister has announced that all states have agreed to open their borders to other Australia states by Christmas – wait for it – except Western Australia!
Quarantine arrangements for overseas arrivals will stay as they are.
International student arrivals will have to wait until Australians wishing to repatriate have returned.
Discussions between the Prime Minister and Danial Andrews, Premier of Victoria will be held next week regarding international arrivals into Victoria.
The press conference is continuing, and there may be further updates.
The Australian National Cabinet – a collection of all state premiers and the prime minister, is due to meet again today. They have been meeting irregularly throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic to liaise on national policy.
The meeting today is expected to concentrate on state and national border travel restrictions.
Australia closed its international borders back in March, and with some exemptions, no one can travel in, or out of Australia. This measure along with ‘contact and trace’, is one of the pillars of success that Australia has built to control COVID-19 infection rates.
Internally, Australian states have also closed their borders to some other states, although these are slowly being removed.
Victoria and New South Wales, the Australian states with the largest populations have been the target of most exclusions. Victoria particularly because of its second wave of infections brought about by breaches in their hotel quarantine for returning travellers scheme. Victoria has been in lockdown for several months and after an extensive public inquiry appears to have successfully dealt with the alarming rate of infections brought about by the breaches in hotel quarantine,
Other states have gradually been opening up, with only Western Australia and Queensland being big fat holdouts.
Most parties involved would like at least state borders to be open by Christmas.
Where are we up to on border closures?
This is the current state of play:
- Australian Capital Territory: Open to everywhere except Victoria
- New South Wales: Open to everywhere except Victoria. Open to Victoria from 23 November. Open to New Zealand
- Victoria: Open-ish
- South Australia: Open to everywhere except Victoria
- Tasmania: Open to everywhere except Victoria. Open to Victoria from 27 November
- Queensland: Closed to Victorians and those from the Greater Sydney – reviewed at end of November
- Northern Territory: Open to everywhere except Victoria
- Western Australia: Closed – Open to everyone from 14 November except Victoria and NSW, but 14 days quarantine apply
Where I have said ‘closed’ that either means you cannot travel there or that you will need to complete 14 days quarantine. In some states you can self-quarantine, in others, it is in designated hotels at your expense.
What’s on the agenda at national cabinet today?
The biggie, besides state border restrictions, will be increasing international arrivals capacity. It has already been announced that Victoria is looking at receiving international returning travellers again since they have (cross fingers) sorted out their hotel quarantine system after a massive and embarrassing inquiry.
The Northern Territory has been receiving returning Australians via Qantas repatriation flights from London, India, and soon, Johannesburg.
Hobart in Tasmania is scheduled to receive international flights from New Zealand from January 2021.
Weekly arrivals into Australia are currently capped at around 6,000 passengers per week. So as of October it was going to take a while to return the 24,000 Australian registered to return. The AFR is reporting that another 6,000 have been added to that figure over the last few weeks.
With Victoria back in the picture with a functioning hotel quarantine system and Hobart eager to accept international flights, that passenger cap needs to be increased.
I’ll update this post if National Cabinet agrees anything on these capacity limits, or breaks down the state border restrictions.