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Australia further extends international travel ban, Indian community calls it ‘major setback’

Source: AAP Image/Dean Lewins

The federal government has extended Australia's border closure by another three months, which implies further restrictions for Australian citizens and permanent residents on travelling overseas.

Australian residents who had been planning overseas travel for long hoping that the international borders will open for them soon, will now have to continue the wait for some more time.

The extension of the human biosecurity emergency period by another three months will continue to distance families divided by the COVID-19 border closure.


Highlights:

  • Federal government extends Australia’s border closure till 17 December
  • Australian citizens and permanent residents need permission to travel overseas
  • Frequent flyers call extension a major setback for business and family reasons

Extension after extension

On 2 September, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the extension of the border closure under the Biosecurity Act 2015 till 17 December.

“The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has advised that the international COVID-19 situation continues to pose an unacceptable risk to public health,” Minister Hunt stated in a press statement.

The extension of the emergency period is an appropriate response to that risk

The emergency period has been in place since 18 March 2020 and has been extended every few months. The current extension ends on 17 September, which will be taken over by the announced extension.

It restricts outbound travel for Australian citizens and permanent residents, limits the entry of cruise vessels into Australia and places trade restrictions on retail outlets at international airports.

Currently, Australian citizens and permanent residents can leave the country only under certain conditions that require the government’s permission. 

Health Minister Greg Hunt on Thursday  extended the human biosecurity emergency period under the Biosecurity Act 2015 to 17 December.
Health Minister Greg Hunt on Thursday extended the human biosecurity emergency period under the Biosecurity Act 2015 to 17 December.
James D. Morgan/Getty Images

Setback for frequent flyers

For those who made frequent use of international travel to run their businesses, the successively extended border closure has been a dampener.

Melbourne-based businessman Ashish Vohra thinks the government’s decision is a “major setback” for those like him.

The government should not have extended the travel ban, especially when the vaccination rate has been steadily rising

Mr Vohra would travel internationally every three months for his businesses before the pandemic. 

“They could rather have announced measures like allowing travel for people who have been fully-vaccinated in Australia or some sort of home quarantine arrangements,” he told SBS Hindi, adding that his business has taken a massive hit in the past two years due to these travel restrictions.

Aside from the financial loss, people like Mr Vohra have suffered on the emotional and familial fronts too.

The Vohra family was left heartbroken earlier this year when they couldn’t travel to India to mourn the loss of a family member.

Indians in Australia
Sunita Dhindsa is a member of the Federation of Indian Associations of ACT.
Supplied by Sunita Dhindsa

World opens up, Australia remains closed

With Australia’s vaccination rate gathering pace over the past month, residents have begun to question the need for extending the border closure especially when the rest of the world is opening up on the back of heightened vaccination.

Countries like the US, the UK, Canada, some member states of the EU and popular tourist destinations like the Maldives have lifted the barricades for international travellers who are fully-vaccinated.

On 2 September, New South Wales announced that 70 per cent of its population had received at least one dose of the vaccine, whereas Victoria is expected to reach the same figure by the end of the month. 

However, Sunita Dhindsa, a member of the Federation of the Indian Associations of ACT, told SBS Hindi that the government’s decision to extend the border closure was only to be expected given the current COVID-19 situation in Australia.

It’s more important that the government continues to allow overseas travel under certain conditions including compassionate grounds and also continue to bring home stranded Australians who are waiting to return

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