Australia’s long-awaited easing of travel restrictions came to an abrupt halt in response to the Omicron variant. December 1 should have been a time of celebration and a welcome step towards Covid normal, but instead, things have been disappointingly delayed once again.
What was meant to happen?
Several changes to the Australian border restrictions were meant to occur on December 1, including allowing eligible visa holders back in the country. This meant that international students, working holidaymakers, skilled migrants, and people with humanitarian visas would have been able to enter the country freely without quarantine, a huge step forward for the Australian economy.
The country was also planning to reopen to travelers from South Korea and Japan, another plan that has now been put on hold.
What actually happened?
The growing presence of the Omicron strain in Southern Africa led the Australian Government to make some tough calls regarding the border. On November 27, only 3 days before the restrictions were due to ease, the decision was made to delay the border reopening. People with eligible visas now have to wait a little longer before returning to Australia and additional isolation requirements were immediately put in place for all international arrivals.
The swift decision-making resulted in some disgruntled passengers at Australia’s international airports on November 27, with a number of people landing to the news that they would now be subjected to home isolation or formal quarantine process.
What is the new plan?
The current plan is for the easing of restrictions to occur on December 15. That means, everything that was meant to occur on December 1 will occur on this date, albeit 14 days later than expected.
People who possess one of the 42 applicable visas will be able to enter from December 15, as long as they are fully vaccinated.
What do you need to know about travel now?
Quarantine requirements now apply to all international travelers landing in Australia. Each state has implemented its own rules so it is important to remain up-to-date on the relevant process for your arrival destination.
Currently, Victoria and New South Wales are enforcing a 72 hour home isolation, while all other states have mandated a 14-day hotel quarantine. This hotel quarantine has to be at an approved medical accommodation and will need to be organized in advance. International travelers will also need to get tested upon arrival.
A temporary ban has been placed on all travel by non-Australian citizens from the following eight African countries: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Lesotho, Mozambique, and Eswatini. People who have been in any of these countries in the past 9 days will not be able to enter Australia if they are not a citizen or permanent resident.
Australian citizens and permanent residents can still return home if they have been in one of these countries in the past 14 days, however will be required to do a 14-day quarantine in an approved hotel.
What can you expect next?
The world of Covid-19 continues to be everchanging so it would be remiss to expect that every stated plan will go ahead without a problem. The good news is that Australia Primeminister, Scott Morrison, has said that there are currently no plans to implement a hard border closure again.
Travelers should stand by for the latest updates regarding the return of visa holders. This restriction is still planned to ease on December 15, as is the return of Japanese and South Korean travelers, although the Australian Government is monitoring the Omicron situation and will make decisions accordingly.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com