With Omicron on Australia’s shores already, here’s everything you wanted to know about state border restrictions for your up-and-coming domestic holiday.
Don’t throw your vacation plans in the bin just yet, domestic travel is still a doable goal for most Australians. It would however be a good plan to choose the destination carefully and familiarise oneself with the different state border restrictions in place and those that may be added as and when more is known about the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron.
After 20 months of lockdown turmoil and border closures, Australians were finally getting excited about travel over the New Year period, but the new virus strain is threatening to derail plans all over again. Since not much is known about the rapidly spreading strain, states are taking extra precautions with tightened travel restrictions, and some are even reintroducing quarantine rules.
Victoria has announced that domestic visitors to the state will not need to get a travel permit to enter any longer, regardless of their vaccination status. Travellers will not have to quarantine or hold a permit to enter Victoria from another Australian state or territory to visit, work or transit through, nor will they require a permit if they have completed hotel quarantine interstate.
It is however a different scenario in Western Australia. WA premier Mark McGowan declared it is “too early” to consider any drastic changes to the state’s border reopening plan, saying that once the state hits 80 per cent full vaccination by the end of next week, reopening for late January or early February could then be decided.
Last weekend he shut his state’s borders to South Australia but is allowing in visitors from NSW and Victoria. Travellers from NSW, however, are not permitted to enter WA without approval. If approval is received, they must immediately self-quarantine in a ‘suitable premises’ for 14 days. The same goes for vaccinated South Australians.
WA Health Minister Roger Cook has expressed concern about South Australia’s relaxed border policy and was worried that overseas travellers could enter South Australia without quarantine if they came from Victoria, NSW or Canberra.
South Australia has also re-worked its border rules following the emergence of the mutant variant. All people arriving in SA from high-risk locations in Australia will be asked to quarantine for 14 days, while those from low-risk or moderate Local Government Areas will need to get tested for Covid-19 three days before entering SA.
They are accepting only fully vaccinated arrivals for now. Unvaccinated travellers will be required to apply for an exemption, and each application will be verified on a case-by-case basis.
The Northern Territory is open to fully vaccinated travellers only, state residents or people who have a medical exemption.
Domestic travellers or international arrivals from a red zone will be required to undergo home quarantine for seven days. Also, all travellers will have to complete a Border Entry form before their arrival.
Travellers going to Tasmania from low-risk areas in Australia do not need to quarantine. However, those arriving from moderate-risk areas must quarantine at home for 14 days, while those from high-risk areas will not be allowed entry into the state unless they are an essential worker.
Any traveller who has spent time overseas in the 14 days prior to November 28, will need approval as an essential traveller and face quarantine regulations. They will have to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test in the 72 hours before their arrival.
New South Wales Premier, Dominic Perrottet has emphasised that the state will stay open and follow its Covid roadmap despite the new variant. He said that Omicron could be contained and the state’s timeline of lifting restrictions at 95 per cent vaccination on December 15 was very much a possibility.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has said the state may reopen borders soon after the double-dose vaccination mark reaches 80%. At present it stands at 76.08%. The borders would then be opened for quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated domestic travellers.
However, inter-state travellers might be asked to isolate if they visit high-risk spots in NSW and Victoria.
All vaccinated international travellers who have arrived in ACT in the last couple of days have been asked to quarantine until November 30. Unvaccinated arrivals are required to undergo hotel quarantine for 14 days. Further instructions are awaited.
While the primary focus on border closures has been on international travel, there are now serious concerns about the emergence of the Omicron variant and how it could throw domestic travel plans into absolute disarray. As more information about the strength of the virus unfolds, states are expected to re-work rules and travel restrictions. Let us not lose heart.