Australia to dump Covid vaccine requirements and travel exemptions for international arrivals

·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/EPA</span>
Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/EPA

People arriving in Australia will no longer have to declare their Covid vaccination status or obtain a travel exemption under changes to come into effect this week.

The home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, announced on Sunday that the government would dump the restrictions that have been in place since the country’s borders reopened late last year, with the changes to the Biosecurity Act made following advice from the chief medical officer, Paul Kelly.

The change will come into effect on Wednesday.

“This is great news for families coming home from school holidays who now don’t need to use the DPD (digital passenger declaration),” O’Neil said.

“As more and more of us travel internationally and we get more confident in managing our risk of Covid, our airports are getting busier.

Related: Australia surpasses 10,000 Covid deaths as authorities warn of another wave of infections

“Removing these requirements will not only reduce delays in our airports but will encourage more visitors and skilled workers to choose Australia as a destination.”

The digital pass, which was announced last September and cost an estimated $75m to develop, replaced the original passenger arrival form and required people to upload their vaccination status ahead of entering Australia.

But the app was criticised for being clunky and difficult to use, with O’Neil saying the government had “listened to feedback” about the pass.

“While in time it will replace the paper-based incoming passenger card, it needs a lot more work to make it user-friendly,” she said.

“I know anyone who has travelled internationally since the borders have opened will find this as one less thing to worry about – especially as more Australians get back to travelling overseas.

The announcement also includes changes to those who arrive by sea, with the scrapping of maritime travel declarations that applied to cruise-ship passengers and maritime crew.

The health minister, Mark Butler, said travellers needed to still comply with remaining Covid requirements of airlines and shipping operators, as well as those imposed by other countries, states and territories.

Mask-wearing is still required on inbound international flights, while state and territory mask-wearing mandates also remain for domestic flights.

“The Australian government makes decisions on Covid-related issues after considering the latest medical advice,” Butler said.

“The chief medical officer has advised it is no longer necessary for travellers to declare their vaccine status as part of our management of Covid.”

He said that unvaccinated Australians, as well as certain groups of visa holders, had been able to travel to Australia for some time and the government would continue to act on the medical advice as needed.