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With Australia and much of the world currently in various levels of lockdown due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, society’s dependence on air travel has been placed on an indefinite hiatus.

In March 2020, Australia closed its borders to any international travelers, with only a handful of exceptions.

Australian citizens arriving back in the country from overseas are now expected to spend two weeks in mandatory government quarantine and are a provided a hotel room to stay in until the fortnight is over.

Conversely, those looking to travel have had to put their plans on hold indefinitely, as the virus’ spread continues to impact different areas around the world.

Though many people are wondering when the pandemic will actually end, the re-opening of our borders will be a definite reason to celebrate—but with a second wave of COVID-19 taking place in Victoria—when will that actually happen?

The answer to the above question is difficult to predict.

Below, everything you need to know about the estimated time we can expect to see our borders reopening in Australia amid the coronavirus pandemic—plus, scroll to the bottom of this article to read about whether your state’s borders are currently open.

At present, there is a ban on all overseas travel from Australia, except for those who obtain legal exemptions.

Aside from those who gain legal travel exemptions, it was announced on August 16 that Australia will be opening its borders for almost 7,000 returning international students who have been stranded offshore under a pilot program, however this does not extend to other temporary visa holders.

As far as when international travel will resume pre-COVID regularity for all other travelers, that is still an exceptionally long while away.

On July 29, 2020, the International Air Transport Association released its latest forecast, which revealed that international travel is unlikely to return to normal until 2024.

Although, in May, they predicted international travel would return to full capacity in 2023, the delayed timeline and “more pessimistic outlook” is the result of multiple influencing factors, including the U.S. and developing economies’ slow containment of the virus, reduced corporate travel and weak consumer confidence.

IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac elaborated on the reasoning behind the extended forecast in a statement, saying:

“Passenger traffic hit bottom in April, but the strength of the upturn has been very weak. What improvement we have seen has been domestic flying. International markets remain largely closed. Consumer confidence is depressed and not helped by the UK’s weekend decision to impose a blanket quarantine on all travelers returning from Spain. And in many parts of the world infections are still rising. All of this points to a longer recovery period and more pain for the industry and the global economy. Domestic traffic improvements notwithstanding, international traffic, which in normal times accounts for close to two-thirds of global air travel, remains virtually non-existent.”

The IATA’s latest statement also included data regarding domestic travel markets around the world, revealing that Australia’s local airline sector amongst the worst hit by the pandemic, and also proving to be one of the slowest to recover.

According to the statistics, revenue per passenger per kilometer declined 94% compared to where it was in July 2019, making it the country with the biggest drop in the world.

There is, however, some hope that a certain type of COVID-19 test known as the ‘rapid antigen’ test, which can deliver results in 15 to 30 minutes, could make international travel a possibility for Australians in the not-too-distant future.

In early September 2020, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce spoke at an aviation conference where he said the 15-minute test is “a reason to be optimistic”.

“There are some great developments in testing that could resolve the issue of people needing to go into quarantine,” he said at the CAPA Australia Pacific Aviation Summit.

Per Joyce, the tests could mean there would be “no need to be in quarantine at the other end” and potentially open up “bubbles” with countries like New Zealand, Japan and some other parts of Asia.

All of that said, there are some flights operating domestically but whether you can travel depends on which state you live in and their individual restrictions.

As Australia has largely ‘flattened the curve’ across most states, we can hopefully expect to see all states’ borders fully reopen in time, but for now, avoiding non-essential travel is generally advised.

t’s worth noting that while some states’ borders are open to transit from other states, the government asks that you reconsider your need to travel unless it’s essential, in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

For constantly-updated information on the states that have enforced travel restrictions, visit health.gov.au, and pick the state that applies to you.

Here is a breakdown below:

  • New South Wales – No restrictions on crossing the NSW border to or from other states, except for Victoria, unless strict criteria is met. Permits issued under previous restrictions are no longer valid and those wishing to enter must apply for a new one on the Service NSW website. Visitors entering from states and territories aside from Victoria are not required to quarantine.
  • Queensland – There are no restrictions on travel for Queensland residents travelling to New South Wales, South Australia, the ACT or the NT, however the Queensland government is advising its locals not to travel to known COVID-19 hotspots. Borders are closed to visitors from Victoria, New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory, which have been declared COVID-19 hotspots. Any person who has been in a declared COVID-19 hotspot during the past 14 days, including Victoria and greater Sydney, cannot enter and will be turned away from the border. Exemptions exist for returning residents who will be subject to government-direct quarantine. More information and for exemptions that are available in some other limited circumstances can be found here.
  • Victoria – No restrictions on crossing Victoria border to or from other states, however some state premiers have advised against travel amid Victoria’s second wave of COVID-19. Residents of Victoria are not allowed to travel to Queensland, Tasmania, Western Australia, Northern Territory, or the Australian Capital Territory without an exemption. Victorians wishing to enter New South Wales and South Australia require pre-approval.
  • South Australia – There are no restrictions on travel from South Australia to New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Northern Territory and the ACT, but residents who wish to return must apply for pre-approval to enter South Australia. The South Australian border is closed to Victoria residents except for year 11 and 12 students who attend South Australian schools, farmers whose properties straddle the border, patients requiring life-saving medical treatment and truck-drivers transporting essential freight. They must have a COVID-19 test every seven days. Travelers from ACT and NSW, other than essential travelers, are required to self-isolate for 14 days after entering the state and agree to undergo COVID-19 testing on arrival and 12 days afterwards.
  • Western Australia – There are no restrictions on travel from WA to NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, the NT and the ACT, but returning residents require an exemption for entry. No other residents from other states are allowed to enter without an exemption. Residents returning from Victoria may be required to undertake 14 days government-supervised quarantine and residents from NSW must self-isolate for two weeks. For more information and exception criteria, see here.
  • Tasmania – There are no restrictions on travel from Tasmania, to NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, the NT and ACT, however returning residents must self-isolate for 14 days once back. Tasmania’s border is currently closed to anyone travelling from COVID-19 affected areas, including Victoria, with only returning residents and legally authorized travelers exempt. All travelers, including returning residents, must self-isolate for 14 days on arrival. More information regarding going to Tasmania is available here.
  • Northern Territory – There are no restrictions on travel from NT to NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and the ACT, but returning residents must complete a border entry form and undergo government-supervised 14-day quarantine at the cost of $2,500 if they have been from or through a COVID-19 hotspot, which now includes Victoria, the Greater Sydney region and Port Stephens. Those travelling to Western Australia require an exemption for entry.
  • Australian Capital Territory – There are restrictions on travel from ACT to NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, and the NT, but residents returning from Victoria or COVID-19 hotspots in NSW must self-isolate for two weeks. People who are not ACT residents may not enter from Victoria unless they hold an exemption. ACT residents are required to self-isolate for 14 days after leaving Victoria. More detailed information available via the ACT government website.

Considering there’s no vaccine yet for COVID-19, the strongest protection we have against coronavirus is social distancing and practicing strict hygiene.

The easily-transmissible nature of the virus has seen many of us become mindful of personal hygiene—not limited to frequently washing your hands properly for a minimum of 20 seconds, and steering clear of touching potentially unclean surfaces while out in public.

By now, you’re already aware of the importance of self-isolation, including staying inside, avoiding all non-essential outings, and staying at least two meters away from other people in public places.

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