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Fake news from CNN & BBC about Australia's international border reopening spreads online

Updated: Nov 1, 2021

Chief Reporter Connor Alforque explains what's really happening with overseas travel.

“Can I travel overseas without having to quarantine on return?” is a simple question - but complicated rules, mixed messaging and politicking have created widespread confusion over Australia’s international border.

New South Wales reached the 80% double-dose vaccination target on Saturday, Premier Dominic Perrottet announced, paving the way for a return to international travel.

“We’re opening Sydney and NSW to the world.”

From November 1, fully-vaccinated Australians will not be required to quarantine if they re-enter the country through New South Wales.

In addition to being fully vaccinated, inbound Australian travellers must test negative to COVID-19 72 hours before boarding.

“People - returning Australians, tourists who want to come back, who want to visit Australia, who want to come into Sydney - hotel [and home] quarantine will be a thing of the past.” The state premier said.

Hours after Perrottet’s press conference - during which he implied the border was being thrown open to international tourists - PM Scott Morrison moved to restrict flights to Australian citizens, residents and their immediate family, which now includes parents.

“It’s for the Commonwealth Government, the Federal Government, to decide when the border opens and shuts at an international level, and we will do that.”

However, Scott Morrison denies overruling Perrottet, saying he “welcomes the announcement” when questioned by reporters over inconsistencies.

Morrison says international borders have been “a topic of discussion for some time” with the NSW Premier.

Despite the PM saying he wrote “to all the premiers and chief ministers earlier this week… asking them to confirm the arrangements”, the Western Australia and Queensland governments say they were blindsided by the “curveball” announcement.

“The Prime Minister’s so-called national plan is in tatters now, thanks to his buddy in NSW going off script, going rogue,” Queensland’s Deputy Premier Steven Miles said on Sunday.

Queensland and WA are yet to set a date to reopen their interstate borders.

WA Premier Mark McGowan says the announcement of quarantine-free international travel could delay the reopening of Western Australia’s interstate border.

“It’s very unclear what exactly has happened in NSW. It’s obviously not in accordance with the national plan - what is going on over there,” the ALP premier said.

New South Wales is the first and only Australian state to have abolished hotel and home quarantine.

Flights were originally set to resume on November 14, but following talks between Perrottet and Morrison, the return of international travel via NSW was fast-tracked two weeks.

From November 1, Qantas will offer four return flights a week from Sydney to Los Angeles and five return flights from Sydney to London per week, with more to be added if demand dictates.

New South Wales will also remove caps on international travellers from November.

Caps will remain in place elsewhere, though these are yet to be specified.

“We will be allowing Australians… to leave Australia from wherever they live in Australia and return, but obviously, the capped arrangements in other states will continue because of the vaccination levels in those places.” Scott Morrison said.

It’s expected that international traveller caps will be removed once 80% of a state’s eligible population is double-vaccinated.

Until this target is reached, those living outside of NSW will require government permission to travel overseas.

“I’m looking forward to them getting to that level because that means they will then have those options that people in New South Wales will have.” The PM said.

Non-New South Wales residents wanting to leave and re-enter the country must do so through a New South Wales airport or under a cap arrangement with their State Government.

The government and media vaunted the return of international travel on Friday, but both were seemingly befuddled.

An article from CNN declares, “Australia’s biggest city to end COVID-19 quarantine for international travellers.”

The network tweeted the report link at 8pm AEDT on October 15, hours after the Prime Minister's press conference.

Several other outlets, including the BBC, were inadequate in their explanation of the “reopening,” leaving Australians outside of NSW in the lurch.

These mixed media messages may have provided false hope to the thousands like Kelly Burns, a temporary visa holder living in California.

She spoke to 6 News late last year.

Denied at least 23 times an exemption to relocate to NSW to be with her partner, Australia’s strict border rules strained their long-distance relationship and her mental health.

“There’s no update; there’s no timeline. There’s nothing that we’re given that okay, we’re going to bring temporary visa holders back into Australia on this date, or here’s your game plan.”

“It’s like we don’t even exist, which is really frustrating.”

A controversial coronavirus countermeasure, Australia’s closed borders have curtailed infections and splintered families.

Imposed in March of 2020, the Commonwealth didn’t hesitate shutting the country’s international border during the early days of the pandemic, earning the country the titles of “hermit kingdom” and “fortress Australia.”

The fortress will fall in stages, though the timeline for its disassembling is unclear.

Scott Morrison says migrants and those with work and study visas are next in line; then, they will confront the “challenge” of tourists.

(Originally aired here October 17, 2021)


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