Major change for international travel: Australia set to scrap controversial rule

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Controversial travel caps are set to be scrapped, allowing thousands of stranded nationals to return home to Australia.

As part of the NSW government's plan to fast-track the return of international travel, caps on return visitors will be lifted, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told Radio National.

As well as returning Aussies, it will allow residents to travel abroad with the security of being able to return.

“The reason we’re so keen is not just to ensure people can travel overseas and reunite with their family and friends and loved ones, but also to ensure people are able to come back,” Mr Hunt said.

A view from underneath a Qantas aeroplane taking off.
Aussie residents may be able to return home sooner thane expected. Source: Getty

Mr Hunt continued, saying Australians stuck overseas "carried the burden" during the pandemic, but that's what has "kept us safe".

Australian borders have been closed for over 18 months with the controversial border rules — one of the strictest in the world—in place since March 2020.  

The travel bans have separated families both within Australia and all over the world, and left tens of thousands of Aussies stuck overseas, as arrivals were capped and flight prices skyrocketed.

“I want to see everybody home as quickly as possible," he said.

PM announces 'fast track' travel, home quarantine plans 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a plan on Sunday to fast-track reopening NSW’s international borders once quarantine arrangements have been finalised. 

"If that happens we will be able to move to facilitate the opening up of the international border in NSW sooner," he said in a livestream on Sunday.

Mr Morrison continued saying NSW is trying to "accelerate" the beginning of at-home quarantine to allow international travel to resume and to allow Aussies to return home. 

Sydney International Airport departures sign during the day with a car parked nearby and a suitcase being taken out.
Health Minister Grey Hunt confirmed international arrivals caps will be scrapped. Source: Getty

Currently, it's understood the state will transition from mandatory hotel quarantine to home quarantine in just over three weeks on November 1.

“I know the NSW Government is looking at ways to fast track home quarantine in November and if that happens we will be able to move to facilitate the opening up of the international border into NSW sooner," Mr Morrison said during Sunday's live stream.

“Now, that would mean home quarantine for vaccinated Australians wishing to return home via Sydney and giving the option for international travel for vaccinated Australians to leave and return.”

Currently, exemptions are required to travel to Australia with travellers needed to quarantine at a hotel for 14 days, which costs around $3000.

Australian citizens and permanent residents will be the only people able to quarantine at home first. However, it could open up to include skilled workers and international students from next year.

Mr Hunt said Australians were familiar with the "well established and well tried" home quarantine system.

“With people crossing state borders, people home quarantining because they are a close contact,” he said.

“That’s a system that’s well established and well tried.”

The NSW government is currently trialling home quarantine, with travellers required to check-in and use face recognition technology to prove they're staying at home.

NSW exits lockdown after 15 weeks

The news comes as NSW emerges from a 106 day lockdown, as the state achieved its milestone of 70 per cent of the population receiving both Covid jabs.

Fully vaccinated residents are now able to enjoy restrictions easing, including gyms, cafes, restaurants, pools, shops, hairdressers and beauticians reopening from Monday for those who are fully vaccinated.

Those who have not received a vaccination will have to wait at least until December 1 until being able to enjoy the eased restrictions. 

More than 70 per cent of people in NSW have received two vaccinations, while 90.3 per cent of people over the age of 16 have had one jab.

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