Almost 18 months ago, to contain COVID-19, Australia closed its borders and took a hit to its economy. But now, with accelerated vaccination drives, the country prepared to ease restrictions on international travel.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has shared that once 80% of Australia's adult population has received both shots, people will again be allowed to travel overseas.
To reopen international borders for some countries the Morrison government has got under a contract with international IT company Accenture for new digital passenger declarations and rolling out vaccine passports.
Minister for Trade and Tourism Dan Tehan shared that the government would be trying vaccine passports with a number of major travel destinations through Australia's diplomatic missions overseas.
Among the countries flagged were Singapore, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the US, as well as Australia's neighboring Pacific islands.
What are vaccine passports?
Vaccine passports are like declarations which will replace incoming passenger cards and COVID-19 travel declarations, capturing information including vaccination status to facilitate international travel at scale into Australia.
It would take the form of a QR code linked to real passports to prove vaccination records for outgoing and inbound travelers, added Tehan.
“Where you’re required to prove you’re vaccinated – when you’re travelling overseas to get entry into countries – that QR code will be able to demonstrate you are vaccinated,” Tehan told Radio National.
Additionally, the separate digital passenger declaration will record incoming passengers’ vaccination status up to 72 hours prior to boarding and be completed by mobile device or computer. Tehan also confirmed information on the declaration could be shared with contact tracers.
Meanwhile, the national cabinet has established a working group to consider potential exemptions to public health orders for fully vaccinated people, but is yet to agree to differentiated rules that would require people to demonstrate their vaccination status.
With a relaxation in travel restrictions, Australia may expect some relief amid the current talent crunch. The digitally verified COVID-19 vaccination details can enable safe travel for increasing numbers of Australians and also welcome the tourists, travellers, international students, and skilled workers.