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.