Border restrictions enforced in response to COVID-19 will be dropped this coming week, with arriving passengers no longer required to declare their vaccination status or obtain a travel exemption.
Changes to the Biosecurity Act coming into effect on Wednesday were made following advice from the Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly that it was no longer necessary for travellers to declare their vaccination status.
Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said the changes will make it easier for travelling Australians to return home as well as allowing more international tourists and workers to come.
It will also reduce delays that have plagued airports since travel resumed, Ms O’Neil said.
The Digital Passenger Declaration (DPD) required people entering Australia to provide their contact details as well as declare their vaccination status, where they had been in the past 14 days, and commit to following quarantine and testing requirements.
The DPD will end on Wednesday, but is expected to return in the future.
“While in time it will replace the paper-based incoming passenger card, it needs a lot more work to make it user friendly,” Ms O’Neil said on Sunday.
The changes were announced on the same day Australia passed the grim milestone of 10,000 COVID-19 deaths.
The country’s toll from the virus stood at 9984 on Saturday, and tipped past the 10,000 mark with Sunday’s numbers.
NSW reported an additional two COVID-19 deaths, while Victoria reported another 22.
South Australia recorded another six COVID deaths on Sunday.
Federal Health Minister Mark Butler reinforced the importance of booster vaccines, which almost six million Australians were yet to receive.
“There is pressure on our hospitals with more than 3000 people in hospital today with COVID, and we’re still seeing around 300 or more deaths every week with COVID,” he said.
“We are not through this virus yet.”
Queensland reported no new COVID deaths on Sunday after the state’s Chief Health Officer John Gerrard said on Saturday there was increasing pressure to bring back mask mandates.
The state’s Minister for Health and Ambulance Services, Yvette D’Ath, said on Sunday there was no change in mask rules.
“I don’t have any recommendations from the chief health officer here in Queensland to do that,” she said.
“But we do remind people as we go through this third wave that they can make those decisions (about when to wear masks) for themselves.”
On Australia surpassing 10,000 COVID-19 deaths, Ms D’Ath said people needed to remind themselves of the virus’ continuing global impact, with people still dying every day.
“Our health workers would prefer to not have to be caring for people who are seriously unwell with COVID, who are in ICU, and sadly, who are passing away with (the disease),” she said.
“There’s something we can do to at least ease the burden on our health workers who are dealing with these COVID deaths and that is getting vaccinated and encouraging (others) … to get vaccinated.”