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The federal government says international borders will reopen next month to states that have fully vaccinated 80 percent of their populations over 16, starting with New South Wales.
Qantas says it’s ready to resume international flights, but flying will look a little different for a while.
What will flying look like?
Do you want to fly? You must be fully vaccinated
Qantas says it is ready to restart international flights on November 14.
However, it could resume its flights sooner or later — it’s just waiting for the federal government to say exactly when the borders will reopen so it can adjust its plan accordingly.
Once the borders reopen, the airline will operate three weekly round trips between Sydney and London and three weekly round trips between Sydney and Los Angeles.
The flights will be on Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, which can accommodate 236 passengers. Those planes can then be fully booked.
More flights will be added as needed to meet demand.
To fly abroad on a Qantas flight, passengers must be fully vaccinated.
People are expected to wear masks during their flights.
How do you prove you are fully vaccinated?
At the end of October, you can access international vaccination certificates, including a QR code.
The certificates will be available through the myGov website.
The National Cabinet released some details on Friday evening:
- The Commonwealth will create an “International COVID-19 Vaccine Certificate” for outbound travelers to present at the foreign borders and at the Australian border
- The certificate will meet the new standards specified by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and approved by the World Health Organization
- The certificate will contain a Visible Digital Seal (VDS) as specified by the ICAO standard. A VDS is a QR code that is as secure as a passport chip, with the same secure e-passport technology
- The VDS will be compatible with existing passport control systems around the world and with COVID-19 travel apps such as the IATA Travel Pass used by dozens of airlines
- The new international certificates will be available to Australians at the end of October, both digitally and in printable form, via myGov.
Qantas says it will provide passengers with a travel pass that confirms that they have met all vaccine and testing requirements for each stage of their journey, no matter which country they pass through.
The mobile app that passengers will use is called the IATA travel pass app.
Once the government has completed its vaccination certificate, passengers can upload the certificate to the IATA Travel Pass, which they can use to fly.
Is social distancing still required?
Qantas says it will comply with the rules that apply in different jurisdictions, as different airports or states may have different social distancing requirements.
What about quarantine?
Returning citizens and permanent residents who have received a double dose of a vaccine approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration can quarantine at home for seven days instead of two weeks in hotel quarantine.
The TGA has approved the recognition of Covishield (India) and Sinovac (China) vaccines.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the recognition of Covishield and Sinovac would be important to admit Australians and international students from countries where the vaccines were used.
“India is an obvious one, as are China and other countries in Southeast Asia,” the prime minister said Friday.
People who have not been vaccinated or have been vaccinated with a shot not recognized by the TGA will be subject to 14 days in hotel quarantine upon arrival in Australia.
Travel caps remain for unvaccinated people.
Citizens and permanent residents who cannot be vaccinated, such as children under the age of 12, are treated as if they had been fully vaccinated.
The federal government is also working on quarantine-free travel for Australians and foreigners to countries such as New Zealand, Singapore and the South Pacific.
What does the industry say?
Sydney Airport says the plan to resume some international flights next month is very welcome.
“This is great news for the thousands of Australians who want to go home or go abroad to reunite with family and friends,” a spokesperson said.
“It’s also great for the hundreds of companies at the airport that have hung up on their fingernails over the past 18 months. It gives them genuine hope that recovery is near.”
The airport said it is ready to resume all operations as soon as possible.
“Throughout the crisis, we have said we will be ready to go as soon as the government gives the green light for international borders,” the spokesman said.
“The past 18 months have been like an operational bootcamp for our frontline teams dealing with constantly changing processes and requirements, and they will be taking this latest change in their stride.”
The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) has also welcomed the move to restart flights, calling it “brilliant news for Australia’s decimated travel industry”.
It said Australia’s travel industry had been in lockdown for 600 days, wiping out a third of the travel industry – 15,000 jobs.
“We are all desperate to start traveling again, both through Australia and internationally,” said AFTA chairman Tom Manwaring.
“Today is a brilliant first step. In addition to eliminating airline seat covers, however, the goal should be to quickly remove all hurdles for all approved, vaccinated inbound passengers to access rapid testing.
“Once they get a negative test, they should be able to go about their normal activities immediately.”
What about the unions?
The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) has criticized the federal government for endangering public health by going ahead with a plan to reopen international borders without drafting a national COVID-safe plan for aviation.
It has called for rapid pre-flight testing and vaccine passports at all international and domestic airports, and says COVID-19 cases are known to spread via domestic air travel after the completion of 14 days of quarantine by international passengers.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said that while re-flights would bring relief to the struggling workers, the reprieve would be short-lived if security measures were not enforced.
“Resuming international flights in a COVID safe manner is an important part of living with the virus, but we cannot afford to be reckless,” he said.
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