Australians already restless from not being allowed to travel abroad for leisure purposes for nearly 12 months, will now need to endure another three-month wait.
Greg Hunt, Australia’s Minister for Health, confirmed that the current human biosecurity emergency period, enacted on 17 March 2020, has been extended until 17 June 2021 – a 15-month hiatus on outbound travel.
Last week Qantas confirmed it was pushing back its planned resumption of international flights from July until the end of October 2021.
Hunt said that the extension of the travel ban will “ensure the Australian Government has the powers to take any necessary measures to continue to prevent and control COVID-19”.
According to the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), the COVID-19 situation abroad “continues to pose 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,” Minister Hunt said.
Existing emergency determinations have been extended on the following:
- pre-departure testing and mask wearing for international flights;
- restrictions on the entry of cruise vessels within Australian territory;
- restrictions on outbound international travel for Australians; and
- restrictions on trade of retail outlets at international airports.
The government notes that these restrictions “can be amended or repealed if no longer needed”
“In particular, the Australian Government continues to work closely with state and territory agencies, national health committees and the cruise industry to develop a framework for the staged resumption of cruise ships in a manner that is proportionate to the public health risk,” Hunt concluded.
CLIA Australasia response
Joel Katz, Managing Director Australasia of the Cruise Line International Association said Australia had done a “remarkable job” managing COVID-19, and respected the Government’s decision to extend the Biosecurity Determination, adding the cruise sector would continue to advocate strongly for the phased and controlled return to domestic cruising.
“We believe there is a pathway for the phased and tightly controlled return of domestic cruising for the benefit of those regional communities and industries that rely on a healthy cruise sector,” Katz said.
“We have been working closely with the Federal Government for more than six months now on a high-level framework for the re-start of domestic operations.
“We are naturally disappointed that the Government has extended the ban without finalising a pathway for the return of cruising given the work that has taken place over many months, but we remain committed to working with agencies at a federal and state level.”
Katz said cruise lines globally had committed to extensive new health protocols including 100% testing of all passengers and crew before boarding, forming some of the most extensive COVID-19 measures of any industry worldwide.