Australia prepares to reopen borders for first time during pandemic

SYDNEY, (Reuters) – Australia will start lifting its outbound travel ban for fully vaccinated residents from Nov. 1 amid a strong uptake of COVID-19 vaccines, as Sydney and Melbourne, its biggest cities, prepare to welcome overseas travellers without quarantine.

Unvaccinated travellers will still be allowed entry if they agree to undergo the two-week mandatory quarantine upon arrival.

The travel arrangements, however, are not uniform across Australia, as the country’s states and territories have differing vaccination rates and health policies.

Here are some indicated dates in Australia’s path to reopening borders based on current vaccination rates:

Nov. 1

* New South Wales and Victoria – home to more than half of Australia’s near 26 million population – will allow quarantine-free entry to all international travellers, although citizens and permanent residents will benefit first.

* All fully-vaccinated citizens and permanent residents can leave Australia without seeking a travel exemption.

Nov. 23

* South Australia to halve quarantine period for international travellers to seven days; quarantine to end when double-dose vaccination rate in the state’s population above 12 reaches 90% but no firm date given.

* Northern Territory to allow two-week home quarantine for fully vaccinated domestic travellers from virus hotspots, rather than at supervised facilities.

Dec 1

* Unvaccinated residents in New South Wales, home to Sydney, to enjoy the same level of freedom as the vaccinated – no limits on outdoor and home gatherings, while more customers will be allowed in retail stores.

Dec. 15

* Tasmania to open borders for fully vaccinated overseas travellers and residents from other states who must provide a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to travel.

Dec. 17

Queensland to allow quarantine-free entry to vaccinated residents from all states, but international arrivals may have to undergo “a period of home quarantine”.

Dec. 20

Northern Territory to halve home quarantine to a week with officials planning to end quarantine by Jan. 18, 2022.

* Western Australia, the only state without a reopening plan yet, has warned it could close its borders to other states if they allow quarantine-free entry for residents from virus-hit New South Wales and Victoria.