Catch with Australia’s border reopening

A trans-Tasman bubble would see Australia's borders open for non-essential travel for the first time in six months - but it comes with a big catch.

Yesterday, a joint government and tourism industry task force revealed its timeline for restarting Australia's battered tourism sector, with a travel bridge with New Zealand slated to be up and running within the next two months.

The task force comprised Tourism Australia, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Flight Centre and other industry leaders who are planning the industry's recovery after COVID-19.

Under the plan, New Zealanders would begin travelling to Australia quarantine-free by November, with Sydney likely to be the first port to reopen to Kiwi travellers.

The catch is, it won't be a two-way street right away - the task force doesn't expect Australians to travel quarantine-free to New Zealand until January or February.

This morning New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern explained why it would take a little longer for Aussies to make their way across the ditch.

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern says more information is needed before she can welcome back Aussie travellers. Picture: Phil Walter/Getty Images
New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern says more information is needed before she can welcome back Aussie travellers. Picture: Phil Walter/Getty Images

 

One of the factors is Scott Morrison’s proposed hot spot scheme for states and territories. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
One of the factors is Scott Morrison’s proposed hot spot scheme for states and territories. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

 

She said one of the issues still being ironed out was what Prime Minister Scott Morrison's proposed hotspot rules for states and territories would look like.

Mr Morrison has so far struggled to get states and territories to agree on his government's definition of a COVID-19 hot spot, which is a feature of his plan to have state borders lifted by Christmas.

"We are just working through what that would mean," Ms Ardern said on Channel 9's Today. "For New Zealand, we have had a plan and a strategy of just having our community free of COVID, so we will just need to make sure that that hot spot regime works on our side too.

"(There's) a bit of work to be done and both sides will need to be comfortable with each other's arrangements.

"What you can see is that we do want to make it work. We want it to be safe. We want everyone to be comfortable with it and know that we are safeguarding our own strategies as we do it."

Yesterday, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry executive chair John Hart told The Australian the first stage in the proposed trans-Tasman bubble would see New Zealanders travelling quarantine-free to Australia.

"Whether they are New Zealanders or repatriated Australians doesn't matter. It's about having a quarantine-free entry into Australia," he said.

"We hope then the response will be New Zealand says 'we're happy for it to happen the other way as well', acknowledging it's probably going to start with the South Island rather than the North Island given they've still got active cases in the north."

The task force has also set a timeline for Australia's internal borders, proposing December 1 as the date by which state and territory border restrictions should be lifted.

It expected hotel quarantine caps to be removed by March 1, and also set a timeline for the return of cruises, with domestic expedition cruises for 300 people or less starting in November before the return of bigger ships and trips to New Zealand and the Pacific.

Australia's states and territories have had an inconsistent approach to lifting border restrictions as community transmission eases across the country.

From midnight tonight, Queensland will allow travellers from 41 northern NSW suburbs to cross the border, but there is still no firm word on when the rest of the state will be welcomed back.

Western Australia has similarly refused to say exactly when non-essential interstate travellers will be allowed to come back, however yesterday it announced quarantine rules would be relaxed for some travellers who can enter with an exemption.

 

 

CURRENT STATE OF OUR BORDERS

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

You can travel to South Australia from any Australian state or territory unless you're coming from Victoria.

Travellers from NSW, Queensland, the ACT, the NT, WA and Tasmania can enter SA without needing to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. But they still need to complete an online approval form.

Those coming from Victoria can only enter SA if they're an essential traveller or live within 40km of the state's border.

QUEENSLAND

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's hard border stance has been a hallmark of the pandemic.

Travellers from SA, WA, the NT or Tasmania can enter Queensland freely.

Residents in the ACT are also allowed into Queensland if they have a border declaration form stating they haven't been in NSW or Victoria in the past 14 days.

Victorians - without an exemption - will be turned around at the airport if they fly into Queensland.

The situation with NSW is a little more confusing.

From Thursday, October 1, the state's border bubble will be expanded to include Byron, Ballina, Lismore, Richmond Valley and Glen Innes.

Queenslanders will be able to visit these regions, and residents living in the more than 41 NSW postcodes will be able to apply for a border pass to travel into Queensland.

As for everyone else in NSW, a trip to Queensland means a 14-day stay in self-funded hotel quarantine.

AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY

Travellers from COVID-affected areas in NSW are urged to reconsider their travel to the ACT, but are still allowed into the ACT without needing to quarantine.

Its border is only closed to Victoria, with anyone (other than ACT residents) travelling in from Victoria denied entry unless they're granted an exemption by ACT Health.

Entry to the ACT from Victoria is only possible through Canberra Airport.

If you're an ACT resident, you must notify ACT Health of your intention to return and must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

 

NSW residents were finally allowed back to South Australia earlier this month. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett
NSW residents were finally allowed back to South Australia earlier this month. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett

 

VICTORIA

Victoria's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) website declares that "no permit or approval is required to enter Victoria from another state - however, you will need to adhere to the restrictions and directions that are in place to slow the spread of coronavirus in Victoria".

That means, if you're heading to metropolitan Melbourne, you need to follow the rules of the step two of the capital's lockdown exit plan. If you're heading for regional Victoria, you'll need to abide by step three of its lockdown exit road map.

Victorians have limited options travelling elsewhere. In order to enter another state or territory, they need to hold an exemption, be an essential worker or live along a state border.

NEW SOUTH WALES

The NSW border has been open to all states and territories since the beginning of the pandemic - except, since its second wave hit, Victoria.

Residents returning to NSW from Victoria are required to undergo two weeks of hotel quarantine.

As for people who live in one of the NSW/Victoria border towns, they're not permitted to go further into NSW than the 50km border region.

"You'll need to apply for a NSW resident's permit to re-enter NSW (requiring a flight to Sydney Airport and quarantine," the NSW Government says.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has hinted however, as regional Victoria continues to record low case numbers, residents in those communities could soon be allowed to travel freely in and out of NSW.

NORTHERN TERRITORY

If you're travelling to the Top End from or through a declared coronavirus hotspot, you'll be sent into mandatory quarantine for 14 days at your own expense.

Entrants from Queensland, SA, Tasmania, WA or the ACT can, however, enter the state without needing to quarantine. Sydney's hotspot status will be removed next Friday on October 9, subject to public health advice, having been banned from the NT since July.

Health Minister Natasha Fyles said there's still no news for Victorians keen to visit the Territory.

"We need to see Victoria step through its transition out of lockdown before we would be looking at removing that hotspot declaration," she told reporters.

All arrivals to the NT must fill in a Border Entry Form before entering the Territory.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

You cannot enter Western Australia unless you have been granted an exemption on application.

Premier Mark McGowan's stance on keeping his state closed has held tight since the beginning of Australia's COVID-19 outbreak, and is yet to name a date for when he'll consider opening up again.

While entrants from other states and West Australians coming home will be required to complete a 14-day stay in hotel quarantine, Victorians who don't have written approval from the state emergency co-ordinator won't be allowed in at all.

From October 5, however, any travellers coming into WA from Victoria will be allowed to quarantine for 14 days at home, rather than in a hotel, "as long as they have an appropriate premise to quarantine in safely", Mr McGowan told reporters on Tuesday.

TASMANIA

Unless you're a seasonal or FIFO worker, Tasmania's borders are closed to you - and you'll have to pay for a mandatory 14-day stay in hotel quarantine before you can enter the state.

Anyone entering Tasmania - resident or not - must have prior approval to do so, via the G2G PASS system.

While December 1 was originally flagged as the date when borders could reopen, Premier Peter Gutwein hinted last week travellers from WA, SA, Queensland, the NT, the ACT and possibly even NSW could be allowed into the state if approved by the State Controller in late October - but this has not been confirmed.

If you are from Tasmania and are travelling back from another state, you must self-quarantine for 14 days upon your return.

- with Natalie Brown

Originally published as Catch with Australia's border reopening


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