Australia’s borders will remain closed and most international travel will be prohibited until December 17, 2021, obeying the extension of the ‘biosecurity emergency period,’ which allows the Federal Government to impose restrictions on overseas flights and cruise ships.
While the three-month ban is mostly a formality, the fact that it ends the day before Qantas plans to resume international flights could be more than a coincidence. On December 18, Qantas will begin flying to Singapore, London, Los Angeles, and Vancouver, with additional destinations such as Tokyo and Honolulu following a week later.
When Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce announced the new schedule last week, he cautioned that “it is obviously up to government how and when our international borders re-open,” but says he has shared his plans with the government, who “agree with our broad assumptions and agree that our plan is reasonable.”
Some of these plans would indeed be conditional on quarantine-free travel bubbles or ‘green lanes’ among nations, or a manageable period of home isolation upon their return to Australia, instead of spending up to $3,000 on a 14-day stay in a hotel quarantine. The country’s borders have been closed for the 21st month in response to Covid-19. Australia, on the other hand, is on track to reach an 80 percent vaccination rate, at which point the government’s four-stage timeline promises that borders will be reopened.
Irrespective, Health Minister Greg Hunt recently announced that the Biosecurity Act 2015’s “human biosecurity emergency period,” that has been in effect as of March 18, 2020, and was earlier set to end on September 17, 2021, will be prolonged by three months “until December 17, 2021.”
According to a statement released by Hunt’s office today, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer provided specialist medical and epidemiological advice to his office. “According to the AHPPC, the international COVID-19 situation continues to pose a threat to public health. A reasonable response to this risk is to extend the emergency period.”
The government does note, however, that these initiatives “can be amended or repealed at any time”, hopefully with exclusions for any country-specific travel agreements, such as those with Singapore and Fiji.
Many Indian-Australian families are distraught to reunite with their loved ones and, in some cases, want to make it home in time to see their ailing parents or, in the worst-case scenario, perform their last rites. However, Australian citizens and permanent residents are prohibited from leaving the country unless they have an outbound exemption approved by the Australian Border Force, a sticking point for many Indian-Australian families.