The Australian National Cabinet met on Friday 2 July 2021 and has outlined a 4-Phase transition out of the COVID-19 pandemic towards what will be our ‘new normal’. Following the meeting, the Prime Minister also announced a 50% reduction in incoming passengers per week in response to the impact of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus. From 14 July to 31 August 2021, we will now see international passenger caps as follows:
Brisbane 500 (plus 150 surge capacity)
These caps will be evaluated in line with the evolving situation in Australia, and will apply on top of the repatriation flights being arranged by the federal government for returning Australian citizens and permanent residents.
As more Australians get vaccinated, we can expect the following changes as well:
- the use of lockdowns as an option of ‘last resort’;
- the introduction of alternative quarantine arrangements for returning vaccinated travellers, including the possibility of home quarantine;
- gradual increases to incoming passenger caps across the country;
- capped entry for student, economic and humanitarian visa holders;
- the gradual easing of restrictions on vaccinated residents leading up to the removal of all restrictions on outbound travel for vaccinated Australians; and
- the introduction of travel bubbles including with Singapore and some of our Pacific neighbours.
National Cabinet will monitor the situation as well as the health advice to determine when such changes will be safe to implement, but the Prime Minister has said that he does not anticipate any of the above changes being implemented before 2022.
What does this mean?
The upcoming reduction in incoming passenger numbers will necessarily mean that fewer inbound and outbound travel exemptions will be granted going forwards, and we expect that commercial flights to Australia will become more difficult to obtain. This is likely to last well into 2022, depending on the progress of the vaccine rollout in Australia.
The changes agreed upon on Friday will mean that travelling to Australia will be increasingly difficult in the second half of this year, with passengers being bumped off flights, and tickets becoming increasingly expensive.
Our advice to all those in Australia, regardless of their visa or citizenship status, is to defer all travel out of Australia unless absolutely necessary. For anyone who is looking to return or travel to Australia, look into your travel options now and be prepared for flight cancellations. The combination of the reduced incoming passenger numbers and the increased PMSOL will mean that TSS visa holders who are hoping to be given an exemption to enter Australia to undertake ‘critical work’ are going to have to meet a higher evidentiary burden in terms of demonstrating the urgent nature of their work. If you do need to travel into or out of Australia, consider a business or first-class ticket if you can afford this, as our experience has been that economy ticket holders are the first to find themselves bumped off a flight.
We will keep you updated as the situation continues to evolve over the coming months.
If you require advice on inward or outward travel exemptions, or if you’re concerned about the impact of these changes on your family members or staff, please contact us.
Image source: The Australian