That Australian road trip you’ve been dreaming of for the past two years is about to become possible again, at least along the east coast.
The hermit state of Western Australia is, as it has been throughout the pandemic, a no go zone, after Mark McGowan labelled every other area of the country ‘extreme risk’.
But to the joy and relief of tourism operators and those with very itchy feet after lockdowns, Queensland is removing the last bits of its hard border regime on Saturday.
This will make Australia’s east coast entirely free of Covid-19 travel restrictions – meaning an uninterrupted trip from Melbourne to Townsville as of Saturday.
Three women pose in front of the Sydney Opera House. NSW is fully open for domestic travel
Queensland’s $27.3billion tourism, which has been slammed by Covid restrictions in the state, welcomed the move and hoped that visitors will soon return.
On Thursday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the change will relieve the burden on police who had enforced the state’s strict border regime for months on end.
‘Now is the time for the barricades to come down and for the police to come home and the police to continue about their normal operational duties on the frontline as they are needed throughout the state as we face this Omicron wave,’ she said.
‘This is the time, and the time is now right as we head towards hitting that 90 per cent (of people double vaccinated) next week. We need to take this step.’
Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind said the decision was a ‘strong signal of hope’ to the industry.
‘Importantly, it signals a change in the mood of the nation and the mood of us individually,’ Mr Gschwind told The Australian.
‘There is indeed a future and we don’t have to remain in this disaster mode forever.’
He said there is still a long way to go to fully recover, though.
‘Our tourism industry finds itself in a really difficult time … because of the staff shortages and ongoing uncertainty and lack of consumer confidence in travelling.
People relax on the beach at Burleigh Heads in Gold Coast, Queensland, which is reopening its borders
DOMESTIC ENTRY RULES TO STATES AND TERRITORIES
QUEENSLAND – All restrictions removed from Saturday January 15
NEW SOUTH WALES – No restrictions on domestic travellers
VICTORIA – No restrictions on domestic travellers
TASMANIA – A border pass is required, for which you need to be fully vaccinated or have an exemption. Those from high-risk areas, currently deemed to be the rest of Australia, must return a negative result from a COVID-19 rapid antigen test taken in the 24 hours prior to departure, or a PCR test 72 hours prior to departure
SOUTH AUSTRALIA – No restrictions on domestic travellers
ACT – No restrictions on domestic travellers
NORTHERN TERRITORY – Double vaccinated visitors with a negative RAT can enter the NT without having to quarantine. They must take further RATs on days three and six
WESTERN AUSTRALIA – Closed to all other states and territories except in very limited circumstances. An exemption for travel could be granted under ‘specialist or extraordinary circumstances’ if approved by the state’s police commissioner or chief health officer
Note: Rules differ state-by-state for those not fully-vaccinated against Covid
Source: Australian state and territory governments and the federal government
‘At the moment, it is very, very challenging,’ he said.
The reopening of Queensland leaves Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory as the only states and territories requiring negative Covid-19 tests for interstate arrivals.
But Western Australia has banned residents of all other states and territories from visiting, even to visit dying family members.
This week, Premier Mark McGowan raised the Northern Territory to ‘extreme risk’, the highest level of Covid warning that bans all arrivals even for compassionate reasons.
An exemption for travel could be granted under ‘specialist or extraordinary circumstances’ if approved by the state’s police commissioner or chief health officer.
Travellers with an exemption must be vaccinated and complete 14 days of quarantine in a state-run facility at their own expense.
People walk along Princes Bridge in Melbourne. Victoria was hard hit by Covid, but is now open to domestic travellers
In Tasmania, a border pass is required for domestic travel, for which you need to be fully vaccinated or have an exemption.
Flight Centre managing director James Kavanagh welcomed Queensland’s decision to reopen, saying it would give travellers peace of mind.
‘In the lead-up to Christmas, policies were changing almost daily with new information coming out, and it’s going to change even more rapidly over the next month or two,’ he said.
‘It just gives a lot more confidence to businesses to be able to get ready for the year ahead.’
A young couple are seen in the water at Cottesloe Beach in Perth. Western Australia is closed to visitors from the rest of the country except in very limited circumstances
Western Australia has now deemed all states and territories as an ‘extreme risk’ shutting out all of the country (pictured, a map indication WAs Covid-19 classification requirements)
Gold Coast City mayor Tom Tate said removal of the border barricade should have come sooner.
‘The border should have been opened late last year,’ he said.
‘It’s time that the message is: if you are not vaccinated by now, you made a choice and you are nine times more likely to get sick.
‘For the rest of the population which has done the right thing, the message should be: get on with your lives … and learn to live with Covid.’