'Unacceptable public health risk': Australia's international travel ban has been extended to June

  • Australia’s international travel ban will effectively remain in place until June, after an extension of emergency powers under the Human Biosecurity Act.
  • The extension was spurred by continual fears of COVID-19 transmission at home and abroad, said Health Minister Greg Hunt.
  • The powers came into effect last March, as authorities sought to limit movement in and out of the country to slow the rate of viral transmission.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Australia’s international travel ban will remain in place for another three months, following an extension of the Federal Government’s emergency powers under the Human Biosecurity Act.

On Tuesday night, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the human biosecurity emergency period, enacted in March 2020 to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, will now end on June 17.

It was originally set to expire in December, but lingering fears over the virus led the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) to call for an extension to March.

The emergency period grants the Australian government numerous powers, including the ability to cap outbound international travel, restrict cruise line arrivals, and mandate pre-departure coronavirus testing.

Despite Australia’s nascent vaccine rollout, serious concerns remain.

“The AHPPC has advised the Australian Government the COVID-19 situation overseas continues to pose an unacceptable public health risk to Australia, including the emergence of more highly transmissible variants,” Hunt said of the new extension.

“The extension of the emergency period for a further three months is about mitigating that risk for everyone’s health and safety.”

Hunt said the powers granted under the extension will be used in a targeted capacity and under epidemiological advice.

The crackdowns can also be lifted, should authorities deem it safe to do so.

That assurance will be of little comfort to Australians hoping to leave the country.

Non-essential outbound travel has been banned since the measures were introduced, with exceptions only granted for essential business or on compassionate grounds.

In December, Hunt revealed that some 95,000 exemptions had been granted until that point.

The extension won’t inspire confidence in the long-awaited, two-way travel ‘bubble’ with New Zealand, either.

Although New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke of forging agreements with individual states as recently as January, the fresh extension – plus Auckland’s latest week-long lockdown – will further diminish those hopes.

Health experts and industry titans have previously expressed their doubts at international travel returning to normal any time soon.

In its recent earnings report, Qantas said it hopes to resume regular international flights in October.

Earlier, Professor Brendan Murphy, Secretary of the Department of Health, said Australia unlikely is to reopen its international borders in any significant way before 2022.

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