Australia eases COVID-19 travel advisory ahead of border reopening

SYDNEY, (Reuters) – Australia on Thursday eased its COVID-related travel advice for several countries including the United States, Britain and Canada as it prepares to reopen its borders next week for the first time in over 18 months.

Australia will lift its outbound travel ban for fully vaccinated residents from Nov. 1 following a strong uptake of COVID-19 vaccines, as Sydney and Melbourne, its biggest cities, look to welcome overseas travellers without quarantine.

“The changes announced today are a vital next step in re-uniting Australian families and safely re-opening Australia to the world,” Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said in a statement on Thursday.

The updated country-specific travel advice will also help Australians to access travel insurance more readily, Payne said.

As Australia begins to ease COVID-19 travel curbs, Victoria on Thursday recorded its deadliest day of the Delta outbreak with 25 deaths and 1,923 cases, the biggest rise in infections in four days. Neighbouring New South Wales, home to Sydney, logged 293 new cases, down from 304 on Wednesday.

Despite the Delta wave, national coronavirus numbers are still relatively low by global standards, with about 166,000 cases and 1,694 deaths.

Australia has been gradually easing tough restrictions in Sydney and Melbourne, helped by higher vaccination levels after a third wave of infections fuelled by the highly infectious Delta variant spread rapidly across its southeast.

The relaxation in travel rules, however, is not uniform across Australia, as the country’s states and territories have differing vaccination rates and health policies.

Under the updated travel advice framework, the ‘do not travel’ advisory, put in place for all destinations in March 2020, has been removed. But no destination will be set lower than ‘level 2 – exercise a high degree of caution’.