Most Australian citizens and permanent residents will have to wait longer to make an international trip as the government has announced it will extend its emergency powers for another three months. However, some exceptions to the rule remain.
The federal government announced on 10 June that limits on outbound international travel and cruise ship arrivals are set to remain for an additional three months, under an extension to the biosecurity emergency period.
The emergency period, which has been in place since 18 March 2020, was due to expire on 17 June, but will now continue till 17 September.
- Australia extends ban on outbound international travel till 17 September
- Australian citizens and permanent residents not permitted to leave the country without travel exemption
- India’s COVID crisis makes travel exemptions even harder to come by for Australians
Outward travel ban extended
A statement issued by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt’s office said that the extension was declared by Australia’s Governor-General David Hurley on 10 June.
“[The Governor-General] was informed by specialist medical and epidemiological advice provided by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer,” the statement added.
Announcing the decision, Mr Hunt said extending the biosecurity emergency period for another three months is an appropriate response to the continued risk posed by the COVID-19 pandemic outside Australia.
“The AHPPC has advised that the international COVID-19 situation continues to pose an unacceptable risk to public health,” Mr Hunt’s statement added.
He added that the travel ban ensures the government has adequate powers to take necessary measures to combat and contain the pandemic, which includes the following:
- mandatory pre-departure testing and mask-wearing for international flights
- restrictions on the entry of cruise vessels within Australian territory
- restrictions on outbound international travel for Australians
- restrictions on the trade of retail outlets at international airports
It is understood that exceptions will continue to be made for travel bubbles with specific countries such as the one established with New Zealand.
How will this impact outbound international travel?
The ban on outbound international travel has been a sticking point for many Indian-Australian families who are desperate to reunite with their loved ones and, in some cases, want to make it home in time to see their ailing parents, or in worse case scenarios, attend their last rites.
Brisbane-based rideshare driver Manish Kumar, who lost his 57-year-old father to COVID-19 in India last week, is now watching his mum battle for her life in a hospital there.
The 34-year-old told SBS Punjabi that it took him 13 attempts and many weeks to get approval to travel to India.
“It is no less than climbing Mt Everest. I started applying for exemption when my father was in the hospital. Right from the first attempt, I made it clear in my request that I am not keen to return to Australia for at least two years, but they rejected all my requests,” he said.
“I finally received my exemption today after 12 unsuccessful attempts. This time, I added proof of my dad’s death and my mum’s hospitalisation. The government needs to show some compassion in cases where there has been a death in the family rather than aggravate people’s woes,” Mr Kumar added.
Travel to India
While outward exemptions are generally hard to come by, they have become a rarity for those seeking to travel to India as it battles a severe second wave of the pandemic.
According to the Department of Home Affairs website, individuals seeking an exemption to travel to India, will only be approved for the following limited circumstances:
- critical workers providing assistance to India’s COVID-19 response
- people travelling in Australia’s national interest
- people seeking urgent medical treatment for a critical illness that cannot be treated in Australia
- people travelling due to the death or funeral of a close family member
- people visiting a close family member who is critically ill
- people seeking to travel to India to escort an Australian citizen or permanent resident minor back to Australia
Click here to know more.
‘Australia needs a combined federal strategy’
Michael Maher, CEO and co-founder of e-wallet and electronic passport platform OnePassport, which digitises contact tracing to facilitate visitor mobility, said that Australia needs a combined federal strategy to allow a gradual and safe return of international travel.
“Without the government feeling safe, they won’t open to international [travel]. By having a combined strategy that helps everyone from aged care and healthcare, through to interstate travel, so we stop having border closures domestically. All of those things need to be sorted out in order for the federal government to open up internationally,” he elaborated.
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