Australian border openings - whats the deal?

Posted 30/9/2021 by Alasdair Spinner


Much to get excited about this morning seeing the tweets and news coming out of Australia : "International travel to restart in November says Scott Morrison" (Guardian). 


I haven't seen my father for two years. I'd love it - if correct. Cynically, my first thought was "Is this really true?" as the situation is and was never clear cut - between what the media around the world reported and what was actually allowed to happen.  So, today I've dug a little deeper to find out what's planned. 


Firstly, it's worth acknowledging that whilst there have been severe border restrictions, flights have been entering Australia and non-Aussie citizens or permanent residents - such as doctors travelling to start new jobs - have been allowed to enter (having applied for exemptions) during the pandemic. 


Under the announcement today, States who have hit 80% of their vaccination target can participate in opening of their borders to international travel - if they want to. 


With national government's approval, the state of New South Wales has put its hand up and given the green light to open up - as long as the quarantine target of 80% of the NSW population is hit. It's important to note this applies to NSW only. Where it gets complicated is what the other State governments want. 


There is huge nervousness in the States - who manage hospitals and health operations - that the opening up of borders will put huge demand on health services. Hence the tension between federal - where most of healthcare funding comes from and who want borders open ASAP - and the State governments who are calling for more funding to deal with increased demand. 


The Western Australian premier today announced it won't open its international border in November - even if it hits its 80% vaccination target. Tasmania is looking at a 90% target.  Queensland has also pushed back.  


With today's announcement there's been an immediate expansion of flights allowed to re-enter and leave. Qantas said today it would bring forward by a month resuming international flights with 3 return flights per week SYD-LDN and SYD-LAX.


So, whilst today's headlines imply Australia is opening up fully, it really is - at time of writing - only Sydney which is welcoming increased number of flights. To complement this, NSW (and South Australia) is trialling a 7 day quarantine at home feature. So if you were planning to check out Australia (Sydney) for a brief visit, the quarantine requirement may still put you off.


The only certain thing today's announcement clarified is the continuing tensions between State and Federal governments and the risk Delta still poses to devolved health services who've had little community transmission compared to most other parts of the world. 


Of course rumours the Australian federal government wanted to open up in time for The Ashes are grossly exaggerated. Or are they...


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