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Pandemic travel update – What you need to know

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We are about to see the end of Australia’s biosecurity emergency pandemic measures as announced by Minister for Health Greg Hunt in a media release published on 25 March 2022.

Based on advice from Professor Paul Kelly, the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, the Minister said the Biosecurity Emergency Determination relating to COVID-19 for Australia will not be renewed when it lapses on April 17, and measures including negative pre-departure tests for travellers entering Australia, restrictions on the entry of cruise vessels into and within Australian territory, and price gouging rules on rapid antigen tests would also lapse.

So, what does this mean for travellers? Well, regardless of your vaccination status there will still be some impacts on travel within, and in and out of Australia.

While emergency powers and other measures will cease, domestic and international travel will still be subject to requirements set by individual states and territories, other countries entry requirements, and requirements set by airlines and cruise vessels.

The changes to the requirements for travel into and out of Australia come into effect from 18 April 2022, with current requirements remaining in place until these changes take effect.

Here is a breakdown according to information sourced from Australian Government websites.

Domestic travel:

Anyone can travel within Australia but will be subject to the border and quarantine requirements set by individual states and territories. Travellers are urged to contact relevant state or territory authorities for more information.

For domestic air travel, proof of vaccination may be requested by airline/check-in staff and may also be requested by border officials. Some airlines are imposing their own vaccination policies and vaccination requirements should be checked before booking flights.

If an airline will not let passengers board because they do not meet their vaccination requirements, they will need to seek a flight that will.

Inbound International travel to Australia:

Australian Citizens, Australian permanent residents, New Zealand citizens who normally reside in Australia, and fully vaccinated visa holders can travel to Australia. Unvaccinated visa holders will still need to be in an exempt category or hold an individual travel exemption to enter Australia. See: COVID-19 and the border.

Australian permanent residents and citizens can travel to Australia regardless of vaccination status. All other travellers must apply for an exemption to enter the country.

The Australian government maintains that it will continue to assist vulnerable Australians, including those who are unvaccinated or who have not been able to access TGA approved or recognised vaccines still seeking to return home, through facilitated commercial flights.’  For more information on this, see Smartraveller.

Proof of vaccination must be provided to airline/check-in staff and may also be requested by border officials on arrival. Vaccination status must also be declared when completing either a Digital Passenger Declaration or a Maritime Travel Declaration. Children under 12 years and 3months of age do not need to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

Unvaccinated travellers or those who don’t qualify as fully vaccinated, will need to quarantine for 14 days on arrival in a designated facility unless you are unable to be vaccinated due to medical reasons or under 12 years and 3 months of age

Incoming passenger arrival caps will still apply to passengers who do not qualify as fully vaccinated and may face more difficulty finding transport options if you are unvaccinated.

As of 11:59 AEST on 17 April 2022 there will no longer be a need to get tested for COVID-19 when travelling to Australia. Local authorities, transport providers and transit locations may have their own testing rules in place for departures and it is recommended that travellers check these before arriving at the airport.

All incoming travellers will need to comply with the testing and quarantine requirements of the state or territory they arrive in, and any other state or territory to which they plan to travel to. If you’re planning to travel on domestically to another state or territory after arrival, check their entry and quarantine requirements. Travellers may not be able to enter or may be required to quarantine, regardless of vaccination status.

Each state and territory manage their own borders and quarantine programs. Before returning to Australia, read about the COVID-19 restrictions in place for each state or territory

For general information for Australians arriving in Australia, see Australia’s biosecurity and border controls.

Reporting requirements for entry into Australia:

All travellers arriving by air into Australia will be required to complete the Digital Passenger Declaration, with the exception of flight crew, and must be submitted before departure to Australia. This is an enforceable requirement and anyone who fails to comply with the requirement may be penalised under section 46 of the Biosecurity Act 2015. Passengers who do not make the declaration before they board their flight may be delayed when arriving in Australia.

For more information on coming to Australia and the DPD see the Department of Home Affairs website for more information

All travellers arriving to Australia by sea will be required to complete a Maritime Travel Declaration (MTD), and must be submitted ten days prior to boarding.

Quarantine re-entry measures:

Modified quarantine measures may apply if fully vaccinated against COVID-19, depending on the state or territory they arrive in, and evidence of vaccination status will need to be provided for modified measures to apply.

If travellers can’t be fully vaccinated, they may be eligible for modified quarantine arrangements.

If unable to be fully vaccinated for medical reasons proof will be required, and must meet certain criteria. Children under 18 years old who don’t qualify as fully vaccinated may be eligible for modified quarantine and testing requirements, depending on the state of arrival.

If travellers do not qualify as fully vaccinated and are not eligible for modified arrangements, they may need to complete a mandatory quarantine period.

For general information for Australians arriving in Australia, see Australia’s biosecurity and border controls.

Outbound International travel:

As of 11:59 AEST on 17 April 2022 Australians will no longer need an exemption to leave Australia if they do not meet the definition of fully vaccinated. A COVID-19 test pre-departure will no longer be required.

Those travelling are urged to check the entry and testing requirements of their destinations, and that of airlines or cruise ships.

When exiting Australia, proof of vaccination status must be provided if requested by an Australian official. If travellers can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons they will need to provide proof of medical contraindication.

The Australian Government recommends passengers departing Australia be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. If unvaccinated, international travel is strongly discouraged due to the health risks.

Testing:

From 18 April 2022, travellers entering or leaving Australia will no longer require a negative pre-departure test and cruise vessels can enter Australian territory. All incoming and outgoing international travellers may be requested to provide proof they’ve had two doses of an approved vaccine.

Masking Requirements:

The Department of Health masking requirements will remain for the duration of flights when travelling to Australia. A cloth or surgical mask is acceptable. Anyone not agreeing to wear a mask will not be permitted to check in or board the aircraft.

If anyone does not agree to wear a mask, you will not be allowed to check in or board the aircraft. Read more about mask requirements for travel to Australia (Department of Health}.

For more information read the step-by-step guide to travel during COVID-19 and the travel advice for your destination.

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