After two years of near constant border shutdowns, countries are opening up and travel is rebounding. People are reconnecting with families, bucket list photos are being taken, business conducted and the world is largely reopening.

For the most part, it’s all been a success. The United States is largely open, Europe is quickly reopening and the list is growing by the day. Not in Australia, and from the sound of it, probably not any time soon, either.

Today, Australia unveiled a simply bizarre “roadmap” to reopening travel, which objectively seems to compound a variety of failings in the beloved country and ever popular travel destination. Each phase is contingent upon unknown metrics, over a number of years, with no real end in sight.

  • Phase One: Limit inbound travel by 50% (tighter than today), vaccinate people.
  • Phase Two: Potentially from 2022, roll back the 50% cap introduced, allow 7 day home quarantine (even for fully vaccinated). No visitors.
  • Phase Three: No longer restrict outbound travel, no quarantine for vaccinated Aussies (only) upon return. Potential travel bubbles.
  • Phase Four: Welcome back fully vaccinated visitors without quarantine, in an uncapped fashion.

When can travelers and families return to Australia? The four phase plan sheds no light, whatsoever. In the interim, things are actually getting worse for travel, until 2022 at the earliest.

Australia To Further Limit Travel

You’ve likely seen that Australia is and remains one of the most “locked down” countries in the world, at least when it comes to inbound visitors. Even Australian citizens were barred from reentering the country at times, which goes against key tenets of citizenship for any country.

Now, caps of arrivals at the border are being reduced by up to 50%, creating even more frustration for Australians stranded abroad, or hoping to reconnect with loved ones in country.

Throughout the pandemic, guards having relations with quarantined arrivals have plagued these facilities designed to keep transmission out. Exemptions for Hollywood A-listers and the rich and famous only fueled frustration among stranded Australians trying unsuccessfully to reach home.

Many top epidemiologists have questioned the logic in using quarantine facilities which were not built for purpose in the first place, citing greater risks from the mixing of guests and creating spread, than people being sent into isolation in private homes.

Anyway. The new entry restrictions will be imposed until the end of 2021, and maybe well beyond. A period of review in early 2022 will decide if the new 50% caps on the already limited number of arrivals can be rolled back.

If entry caps are rolled back, unvaccinated Aussies can go back to the same program which exists today: 14 days of quarantine in a government controlled facility. The big step change in this “roadmap to open travel” is that come 2022, some people may be able to isolate at home for 7 days.

Vaccinated Aussies Can Quarantine At Home In 2022, Maybe

From 2022 at the earliest, fully vaccinated Australians may be able to skip out on the mandatory hotel quarantine, and instead quarantine at home for 7 days.

Already, imposing a quarantine for vaccinated visitors is seen as “not following the science”, based on growing data around the minimal risks posed by inoculated people. The European Union dropped all covid-19 testing requirements for fully vaccinated visitors coming from “safe list” countries.

Thinking 7 days at an Airbnb in Australia doesn’t sound like too bad of a price to pay to visit this travel paradise? Think again. If the changes are implemented, they will only apply to returning residents and citizens. There’s no plan to allow any fully vaccinated visitors during this “phase two” time.

Phases 3 And 4: In This Lifetime?

If 2022 rolls around and the 7 day home quarantine doesn’t rock the boat too much, Australia says that discussions of “phase 3” could exist.

If “phase three” is reached, any fully vaccinated Australians could travel freely out of the country again, and no quarantine period would be required upon return. Being that “phase two” is only a maybe for 2022, that’s a lot of “if” involved.

“If” phase three proves to be a success, then discussions around “phase four” could be triggered, which would see the welcoming of vaccinated travelers from other countries entering Australia again, without caps on visitors.

What sounds like four simple steps, really translates to years of unknowns. Despite early successes in keeping infections low, Australian leaders were not quick to acquire vaccine doses, and until vaccination efforts reach critical numbers, Australia will play catch up as the rest of the world returns to normalcy and freedom of movement.

This four phase plan appears to be curiously cautious, particularly when considering that other risk averse countries, such as Singapore, have already stated clear plans to roll back travel restrictions and domestic measures, as soon as possible.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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12 Comments

  1. I feel sad that I possibly won’t be able to visit Australia again for potentially years but I really feel bad for Australians not being given much hope for foreign travel themselves with this ridiculously cautious plan.I hope the people in power can start trusting the science a lot more and get people travelling much quicker.

  2. Absolutely absurd plan. I am scratching AUS off of my list for many years beyond 2022. Why are they hanging onto COVID-19? If one believes “the science”, there is absolutely no reason why vaccinated travelers cannot visit, particularly after a test!

  3. Meh to Australia…lots of other countries to visit. Their turtle strategy was smart in the beginning but not a sustainable long term strategy. Bankrupt Virgin Australia is $7B in debt, the travel industry is begging the Aussie government for a bailout, and a pitiful vaccine rollout to date. Glad to see the US doesn’t hold a monopoly on dysfunctional government.

  4. As well as tourists missing out, the unnecessarily prolonged separation of families and loved ones is causing real distress – including not being able to visit grandchildren, etc.

  5. As a fully vaccinated, fit and healthy grandmother, unable to visit her grandchildren, (a joyous ritual over the past 4 years), I am devastated by this. We are the last to be allowed entry. It is heartbreaking. We are “needed” a lot more than movie stars and sports stars. We care and support our family. Added to this, in the twilight of our years, how many more years do we have to play a vital part in their lives? They have to pay 4 tickets to travel. We pay 2. I hope they reconsider and ramp up vaccinations in Australia. It has been far too slow.

  6. Australia has an election due next year.
    The closed border policy is extremely popular with voters.
    Let’s see if after the election which ever party wins reviews the data and “the science” and revises the timetable – assuming there isn’t another Northern Hemisphere winter wave.

  7. Proven through history – most Aussies are too Beta to do anything about it. The government could tell them to sacrifice small children and those brain dead fools would willingly comply.

    One positive that is never mentioned is the world is rid of these Karens…well at least until 2022

  8. Australia July 5 2021: Numbers relating to the China-Virus, the UK Virus, the India Virus:

    • Deaths since October 2020 in Australia: None
    • People in ICU today: 7
    • People in Hospitals today: 75 ( 40 of those are in Queensland )
    • Active cases today, Australia wide: 423
    • People under Lockdown today in Australia: 6,000,000 +
    • Population today in Australia: 25,788,000 +
    • Politicians who should be jailed today and have their massive salaries taken away: 1 x Prime Minister. 8 x State & Territory Leaders
    • Chief Health officers who should be jailed and have their massive salaries taken away: 8
    • Rise up Australia, the world wants to come, citizens who are stranded overseas want to come back but now that is limited to 3000 a week ( but the bastards happily collect our taxes ).

    #riseupaustralians The world loves us for our relaxed, can-do way of life, but sadly, you have all become scared, narrow-minded, pathetic wimps listening to those fools and obeying their commands

  9. As an Australian living in the UK, i’m so sick of the Aussie governments approach. Which all seems to be down to their awful job at rolling out the vaccination program (around 6% of Australians are now fully vaccinated).

    I am desperate to see my family, am fully vaccinated and happy to quarantine at my parents home. Yet, i’m not allowed in and they aren’t allowed out.

  10. Thousands of Aussies stranded abroad, stuck on the other side of the border. Thr caps put ridiculous pressure on airlines which flows down to passengers. The rich fly in no problem, the rest suffer.

    I shout about this on a daily basis on my Instagram, desperate to raise awareness to the plight of stranded Aussies who have no access to visas & work, and no access to public funds while they scramble to get the next seat available.
    Aussies in Aus don’t hear enough about this, the Aus media isn’t interested in covering it.

    There’s no end in sight. This will get worse for Aussies abroad.

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