The Australian government has extended the outbound travel ban for a further three months. It means Australian citizens and permanent residents will continue to need a travel restriction exemption to leave the country until at least 17 June 2021 – three months later than previously announced – although it is likely that the travel ban will be extended yet again beyond that date.
Australians have been banned from leaving the country without an exemption since 25 March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was originally for a period of three months, but the government has since continuously extended this period for three months at a time. This is the fourth extension to the human biosecurity emergency period under the Biosecurity Act 2015, which was previously due to expire on 17 March 2021.
In a statement, Health Minister Greg Hunt said that the AHPPC had advised the government that COVID-19 remains “an unacceptable public health risk to Australia, including the emergence of more highly transmissible variants.”
“The extension of the emergency period for a further three months is about mitigating that risk for everyone’s health and safety,” Mr Hunt said.
The requirements for pre-flight COVID-19 testing (for international arrivals) and restrictions on the entry of cruises into Australia have also been extended for another three months.
The ban on international arrivals without an exemption also continues indefinitely, except for returning Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family members.
Realistically, Australia’s travel bans are unlikely to be lifted until the government considers that COVID-19 no longer poses an unacceptable risk to the Australian community. That could happen once the majority of Australians are vaccinated, but there are still many unknowns.
The government is at least now approving more outbound travel exemption requests than it was at the beginning of the pandemic, when many were being rejected. Since around September 2020, the government has generally been accepting applications from Australians wishing to leave Australia for a compelling reason for at least three months – a criteria that was not available at the beginning of the pandemic.
But the “3-month” rule has become a little stricter over time. Would-be travellers are now required not only to provide a compelling reason for going overseas for more than three months, but also to provide evidence in the form of a Commonwealth Statutory Declaration.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Predictions of when international flights may resume/bans lifted