News report | | 26/01/2022 | ±3 minutes reading time

The Prime Minister of Western Australia, Mark McGowan, has decided to postpone the border opening scheduled for 5 February. This means that international travellers who want to travel to the state still need a travel exemption in addition to an Australia visa.

More boosters needed

Western Australia has kept its borders closed for more than two years now. Even travellers from other parts of Australia are not allowed to enter the state. On 13 December 2021, Prime Minister Mark McGowan announced that Western Australia would open its borders on 5 February 2022. Fully vaccinated travellers would then be allowed to travel to the state without having to undergo quarantine upon arrival. This date was chosen because the state government assumed that vaccination coverage would reach the 90% target by then. In addition to the visa, foreign travellers would no longer need a travel exemption to travel to the state.

However, the omicron variant of the coronavirus has thrown a spanner in the works. In Western Australia, as in many other countries, the number of infections is rising rapidly. The state premier has now decided to wait until the booster level is higher. The current booster rate in Western Australia is 28%. Based on current figures, it will be around 40% on 5 February. Premier McGowan said the booster rate needs to be at least 80% to open the borders. McGowan is following the advice of medical specialists, who urged that the borders should remain closed until enough booster shots have been taken.

The government has not yet given a new date for the border opening.

More exceptions

There are, however, some relaxations with regard to the COVID-19 rules for persons wishing to travel to the state. As of 5 February, persons attending funerals or court trials are also allowed to enter Western Australia. Visiting terminally ill or palliative care patients will also be allowed to travel to the state. Under current rules, all persons travelling to the state must spend 7 days in quarantine in a government hotel and 7 days in home quarantine.

The Western Australian government said it would review the rules in the coming weeks to see if and when further relaxations could be implemented. Prime Minister McGowan said the omicron variant of the coronavirus was causing a new emergency and that it would be irresponsible to open the borders on 5 February.

Travelling to Australia: visa and exemption required

The news comes as a disappointment to both domestic and foreign travellers who had planned a visit to the state. Currently, foreign travellers must apply for a travel exemption in addition to their Australia visa. The permit has so far only been available to a limited number of people, such as parents of adult Australian citizens. Prime Minister McGowan‘s announcement means that more people will now be eligible for an exemption. The travel exemption can be applied for even before the visa application has been approved. However, the exception must be used within 8 weeks.

Is the Australia visa still valid?

Many travellers had already applied for visas to travel to Australia from 5 February. Although it is still unclear when Western Australia will open its borders again, it is expected to happen this spring. The Australia visa is valid for one year from the moment it is granted. The extension of the border closure does not affect the validity of visas that have already been issued. This means that travellers who want to travel to Australia later this year do not need to apply for a new visa. This is only necessary if the validity of the current visa expires, or if the traveller takes up a new passport.