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Australia’s borders ‘may stay closed until late 2021’

The country’s government says travel to and from Australia is likely still a year away

James Manning

First came the news that Australia’s borders were likely to stay shut until the end of 2020. Then Qantas, Australia’s biggest airline, said it did not expect to fly any international routes until next July. Now comes a further blow, both to Aussies desperate for a break outside the country (or that long-awaited family reunion) and to travellers dreaming of a trip Down Under. The Australian government has said that international travel probably won’t return until the very end of 2021.

‘International travel, including by tourists and international students, is assumed to remain largely closed off until late next year,’ said treasurer Josh Frydenberg in a statement following the annual federal budget. This is because Australia is waiting for a vaccine to become widely available before reopening its borders: ‘A vaccine to be available around the end of 2021 is one of the assumptions in the budget.’

Australian citizens and permanent residents are currently banned from leaving the country and no international travellers are being allowed in, except for those on a short list of exemptions.

For Australians, the latest news means that globetrotting is likely off the cards until next summer (except in the case of a possible trans-Tasman travel bubble with New Zealand), and that the country’s tourism industry will miss out on peak season.

Those desperate to fly somewhere – anywhere – from Australia can board a series of scenic day flights over Antarctica, starting in November. Tickets quickly sold out despite costing A$1,199 (that’s £653 or $861).

Frydenberg added that once a vaccine was available, travel was expected to ‘gradually return over time’. But based on the number of people desperate to visit Australia – and Australians waiting to travel overseas again – we’re expecting plenty of pent-up demand.

It’s official: not being able to travel is taking an emotional toll on us.

Where can you travel right now? Here’s what you need to know.

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