The federal government’s global “do not travel” advisory, which applied to all countries except New Zealand, has been lifted ahead of the removal of international border restrictions today.
The removal of the highest threat level has important ramifications for Australians wishing to go abroad, as most conventional travel insurance policies will not cover countries with a government “do not travel” warning.
In February 2020, most travel insurers designated the COVID-19 pandemic a “known occurrence,” which meant it was no longer covered. However, due to the continuous nature of the pandemic, several insurers have begun to include COVID-19 coverage in their policies.
Vaccinated Australians will be able to leave the nation without seeking permission from the Border Force beginning November 1. Only New South Wales and Victoria, however, will permit Australians to return without entering quarantine as of that date.
For 177 countries throughout the world, warnings would revert to being country-specific. Due to the ongoing health hazards related to the COVID-19 pandemic, no country will receive the lowest level of warning (“take regular safety precautions”).
Instead, the safest countries will remain at level 2 – “exercise extreme caution.” Even before the pandemic, many popular places, including Indonesia and France, were under level 2 notice.
“We realise it has been a challenging 18 months for Australians overseas attempting to return, as well as for Australians with family and friends abroad,” Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement.
“The modifications announced today are an important next step in reuniting Australian families and safely reopening Australia to the world.” Travellers will still need to follow the standards imposed by individual nations and airlines. These can include asking passengers to present proof of vaccination, a negative PCR test, or both before boarding aeroplanes.
For example, under the recently proposed travel corridor, Australians travelling to Singapore would only be permitted to fly on designated vaccinated-only planes and will be subjected to a PCR test upon arrival. They will have to isolate themselves until a negative test is returned (children are exempt provided they are travelling with a fully vaccinated adult). They must also have travel insurance that covers at least $30,000 in COVID-19-related medical expenses.
The Department of Foreign Affairs’ Smart Traveller website’s four warning levels are:
· Level 1: Exercise normal safety precautions
· Level 2: Exercise a high degree of caution
· Level 3: Reconsider your need to travel
· Level 4: Do not travel
The warning levels are determined by various factors including crime, terrorism, health, medical care, natural disasters and DFAT’s ability to provide consular assistance to Australians in a destination.
Smart Traveller website warns that, while most travel insurance policies will cover travel to destinations at level 1 or 2, cover can vary at level 3. Travellers should check policies carefully.
Warning levels for popular destinations
New Zealand – Exercise a high degree of caution
Indonesia – Exercise a high degree of caution
United States – Exercise a high degree of caution
United Kingdom – Exercise a high degree of caution
China – Exercise a high degree of caution
Thailand – Reconsider your need to travel
Japan – Exercise a high degree of caution
India – Exercise a high degree of caution
Singapore – Exercise a high degree of caution
Fiji – Exercise a high degree of caution
By Joe Cusmano