Australia has confirmed its commitment to restart international travel once 80 per cent of people aged 16 and above receive two coronavirus jabs.
Despite some state premiers maintaining a hardline on internal borders, the federal government is increasingly adamant overseas travel restrictions will ease when the target is hit.
Projections suggest national 80 per cent double-dose coverage could be achieved before the end of the year.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed he would forge ahead with relaxing tough border measures in line with the national reopening plan.
‘That’s certainly what we intend to facilitate – for vaccinated people to travel,’ he told reporters in Washington DC on Thursday.
Mr Morrison said he was looking forward to welcoming back students and skilled migrants when borders ease.
‘Those vaccination numbers will continue to rise,’ he said.
‘As they rise, the opportunities to get back to life as normal as it can be, and living with the virus, will just be coming closer each and every day.’
Australia is in talks to set up quarantine-free travel bubbles with the UK, US, South Korea, Singapore and Pacific islands such as Fiji for the fully vaccinated.
Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said discussions were ongoing with several countries with high vaccination rates to determine what kind of quarantine arrangements would be needed.
Video: People continue to show up in ‘very strong numbers’ for vaccination in Victoria (Sky News Australia)
‘Hopefully we’ll be able to have home quarantine, we’ll be able to limit the time of quarantine and, ultimately, quarantine-free travel. It could require some testing. All those discussions are in place,’ he said.
Mr Tehan declared Australia’s international border will reopen at Christmas at the latest.
The plan would start with allowing people to leave the country more freely before establishing more travel bubbles like the paused New Zealand arrangement.
NSW is trialling seven days home quarantine for 175 fully vaccinated overseas arrivals using location and facial-recognition technology also employed during a South Australian pilot.
Mr Tehan is hopeful the halved isolation period with testing either side can be a future model around the nation.
‘The more we can limit that time in quarantine, obviously the better, the better for bringing returning Australians home, the better for international students to be able to return,’ he said.
Australia is expected to pass 50 per cent full vaccination coverage for over-16s and 75 per cent first-dose protection this week.
Qantas and Virgin are preparing for more overseas flights to restart in December with vaccination expected to be a condition for travellers.
More than 45,000 Australians are stranded overseas with the figure rising in recent months due to reduced passenger arrival caps.
Labor continues to blame the government’s failure to establish multiple quarantine hubs for the backlog.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese also wants a plan for booster shots, jab incentives and a working national contact tracing app.
‘There’s always been a huge gap between what this government promises and what they actually deliver,’ he told 5AA radio.
Victoria recorded 766 new local cases on Thursday, the state’s highest tally of the pandemic.
NSW continues to record about 1,000 new infections a day.Internet Explorer Channel Network