Federal government hopes to reopen international border by Christmas 'at the latest'

The Tourism Minister has flagged the federal government anticipates the international border will be reopened by Christmas “at the latest”.

Dan Tehan said the government was getting its systems ready to allow people to leave the country and return without needing to go through hotel quarantine. 

“We’re doing that preparatory work to make sure that when those international borders open, hopefully at the latest by Christmas, Australians will be able to travel with a QR Code linked to their passport, which will be able to show a proof of vaccination,” he said.

Mr Tehan acknowledged there was still work to do on home quarantine programs, but that by the end of the year the hope was most states and territories would have some kind of program in place.

“But that’s basically the plan that we’re looking at as we head to that 80 per cent national vaccination rate,” he said.

Under the national reopening plan, Australians will be allowed to travel overseas again once 80 per cent of people over 16 have been fully vaccinated.

It will also allow Australians who have received one of the vaccines approved in Australia — currently the AstraZeneca (or Vaxzevria), Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines — to quarantine at home for a shorter period of time.

South Australia is currently trialling a shorter home quarantine program and New South Wales is planning on beginning its own in the next few weeks.

Outbound travel still unclear

As for outbound travel, it is not clear yet whether overseas trips will be allowed or whether there will be a staged reopening to certain countries.

But Mr Tehan confirmed the government had been in talks with international embassies about Australia’s vaccine passport to make sure it would be accepted when people were allowed to go abroad.

He also confirmed talks were continuing about setting up other travel bubbles similar to the agreement in place with New Zealand.

From next month the government will start issuing vaccination passports for international travel. 

The passport will live in a phone app and have the same information your normal passport does, plus a QR code that will allow border officials overseas to scan and check your vaccination status.

“Our vaccine certification QR code system has been sent to all of our overseas embassies so we can begin that engagement with overseas posts and overseas countries on making sure that it will be interoperable,” Mr Tehan said.

“What we have seen so far, and all the reports back, is that the system, the QR code system, which has obviously been modelled on the international aviation organisation’s model … seems to be interoperable with most of the countries that we have been dealing with.”

The international vaccine passport will be separate from domestic vaccine certificates, for use by Australian businesses and venues when restrictions are eased.

National Cabinet has agreed to build people’s vaccination status into each jurisdiction’s check-in app to make it easy for people to show if they are fully vaccinated or have an exemption.

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