If you manage to survive the numerous barriers to getting into Australia, traveling around Australia is almost impossible right now. Intrastate travel is possible, and there is some open interstate travel between the lesser states. But if you are eyeing flying around the country over the next few months, you should probably forget about that.
Although some states began to relax border restrictions about two months ago, a fresh COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne caused most states to shut their borders again.
That temporary relaxation in border restrictions saw both Qantas and Virgin Australia increase their domestic capacity in July and August. But border closures have since seen that capacity reduced.
In a media briefing yesterday, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce cited the example of the Sydney – Melbourne corridor, usually the second busiest city pair in the world. Before the fresh COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne, Qantas was up to 11 return services a day on the route. That’s now been cut back to one daily return service.
Melbourne is currently under lockdown and nighttime curfew. While you can get in, good luck trying to get out. Across other states, there’s a mish-mash of moveable restrictions that are causing widespread chaos, not least among the airlines. Here’s a look at the current restrictions.
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New South Wales & the Australian Capital Territory open to all except Victoria
The Australian Capital Territory, home to Canberra, remains open to travelers from all states except Victoria. Travelers coming from Victoria will be denied entry into the Australian Capital Territory.
New South Wales is Australia’s powerhouse state and has proved the best at keeping COVID-19 infection rates low and the State open for business. Except for Victorian residents, interstate travelers are free to enter and leave New South Wales.
The few flights originating from Melbourne are met at Sydney Airport by health and security officials. Passengers go to a hotel for a compulsory 14-day quarantine at their own expense.
Queensland & Northern Territory shut to southern states, probably until late this year
Residents of New South Wales, Victoria, and the Australian Capital Territory will find Queensland’s borders closed to them. Residents of other states and territories can enter Queensland, subject to completing a Queensland Border Declaration Pass.
Queensland is also closed to overseas travelers who have been in New South Wales, Victoria, or the Australian Capital Territory within the last 14 days.
At this time of the year, Darwin is normally a pleasant place to be. Entry into Darwin and the wider Northern Territory is subject to completing a border entry form. If you are coming from a COVID-19 hotspot (currently all of Victoria, Greater Sydney, and Newcastle), you will have to complete 14 days of compulsory quarantine at your own expense.
South Australia open to some travelers
There is currently unrestricted entry into South Australia for residents and travelers coming from Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Tasmania, and Queensland.
If you are a resident of or entering from either New South Wales or the Australian Capital Territory, you will need to self-quarantine for 14 days upon your arrival. If you’re coming from Victoria, the border is closed and that closure got tightened overnight.
Outlying states remain closed to everyone
Western Australia and Tasmania remain closed to nonresidents and all but essential travelers.
The upshot is it’s challenging to travel at the moment. This is particularly so if you are resident of or traveling from the populous southern states. Yesterday, Qantas’ Alan Joyce questioned how he was expected to plan around stop-start border openings and closures. He called for a national framework to add some certainty and clarity to the issue.
“We get dates from different states which are different from each state, and there seems to be no reference to the levels of cases that we see,” he said.
“We still don’t understand why states with zero cases for a long time have borders closed to states with zero cases. That doesn’t seem to make any medical sense on any advice we’ve seen.”
Intrastate travel is prospering. But interstate border closures and uncertainty surrounding them will continue to stifle the rebound of domestic airline activity in Australia.