Australia to open borders for first time since Covid outbreak

Quarantine restrictions will still apply to people who want to travel. Credit: AP

Australia is set to reopen its borders for the first time in 18 months allowing thousands of vaccinated citizens and their relatives the freedom to travel again.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it is "time to give Australians their lives back" as he announced the return of international travel from November.

The borders will only reopen to double-jabbed citizens and residents at first and they will still be required to quarantine for seven days at home.

Australians have been living under some of the world's strictest border controls since the pandemic struck the country in March 2020, with only a limited number of people granted permission to leave on exceptional business or humanitarian grounds.

The rules have meant citizens have been unable to leave the country and Australian nationals living abroad have been unable to visit loved ones in their native home.

Announcing the long-awaited rule change, Mr Morrison said on Friday that double-jabbed passengers will be able to travel abroad once their state has fully vaccinated 80% of residents.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison set out the long-awaited rule changes in a press briefing:

He told a televised press briefing on Friday: "It's time to give Australians their lives back.

"We've saved lives. We've saved livelihoods but we must work together to ensure that Australians can reclaim the lives that they once had in this country.

"And we must work together to achieve that goal. That's what the national plan is all about."

Fully-immunised Australians and residents with a vaccine recognised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration - the country's health department - will be required to quarantine at home for seven days on their return.

People who are not double-jabbed will have to spend two weeks in a quarantine hotel.

The prime minister said the government is "working towards" quarantine free travel for passengers arriving from certain countries like New Zealand "when it is safe to do so".

Listen to ITV News's latest Coronavirus: What You Need To Know podcast episode

He said: "We will be able to open those international borders again and that will enable Australians who are fully vaccinated, and Australians and residents of Australia who are overseas, who are fully vaccinated, to be able to travel again and to be able to lift those caps on our airports in states where they have moved into Phase C of the program.

"And that is where Australia is now preparing to move." 

"Also, those residents and Australians who are overseas to return to Australia as if they are vaccinated with uncapped restrictions on their arrival in those states which have moved into that phase," he added.

Mr Morrison said the Therapeutic Goods Administration has recognised two other vaccines for incoming passengers - Sinovac and COVID Shield - which are being administered in China and India.

Australians looking to travel abroad will be able to get an "internationally recognised proof of vaccination document" showing their vaccine status in the coming weeks.