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Australia: International travel will be back ‘by Christmas at the latest’, government says

Federal Tourism Minister Dan Tehan says he believes international borders will be open “by Christmas at the latest”.

With COVID-19 vaccination rates rising, Mr Tehan said on Wednesday the government was getting its systems ready, including vaccine passports, to allow people to leave Australia and return without having to go through hotel quarantine.

Under the national reopening plan, Australians are set to be allowed to travel overseas again once 80 per cent of people aged 16 and over have received two vaccine doses.

It will also mean Australians who have received doses of a Therapeutic Goods Administration-approved vaccine could quarantine at home.

“I do empathise with the Australians who have been denied the opportunity to travel overseas this year. It’s another reason why everyone should get vaccinated,” Mr Tehan told the National Press Club.

“We have to stick to the national plan that will see our international border open up, at this rate by Christmas at the latest.”

Where Australians could travel to is still unclear, but Mr Tehan confirmed travel bubbles were under negotiation with other countries, mirroring the agreement with New Zealand.

More than 45,000 Australians are still stranded overseas and about 4,700 are considered vulnerable.

Speaking from the United States on Thursday morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was looking forward to restarting international travel as soon as the situation allowed.

“This week, we will hit three-quarters of Australians aged over 16 with a first dose [of a vaccine] and we will hit one in two of having their second dose – and those vaccination numbers will continue to rise,” he said.

“And as they rise, the opportunities to get back to life as normal as it can be, and living with the virus, will just be coming closer each and every day.”