The extension of the travel bubble to include New Zealand will have prematurely raised the hopes of some that it will be soon be extended to other parts of the world. One travel agent told Neos Kosmos that he had received many calls since he opened this week from people wanting to know when they could travel to Greece. We are simply not there yet and only the roll out of a COVID-19 vaccine will open the way for travel beyond our borders.

Panayiotis Alysandratos said that it was a matter of waiting and seeing before committing to travel. He said Australian citizens and permanent residents could leave the country on compassionate grounds or if they were to go for three months or longer. But there were many factors to consider before travelling

He added that a person wishing to travel needed to consider the rapid changes in quarantine regulations and the costs that a quarantine period would incur.

“Right now, we are just waiting – if a vaccine for COVID-19 were to come out, then things could perhaps return to normal for the travel industry,” Mr Alysandratos said.

Kon Kavalakis of Grecian Tours agreed that much depended on the development of a vaccine. Without the vaccine extending the range of the travel bubble would be a slow process.

“The extending of travel does also depend on the conditions in other countries. New Zealand had a very low number of cases over a long period of time. Other countries that may be included (in an extended travel bubble) could be Singapore, Japan.”

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If you have plans to travel, make sure that you regularly consult with the Department of Home Affairs website and your travel agent as the regulations can change very quickly. Photo: Matthew Henry/Burst

This week, Australian Prime Minister Scot Morrison announced he had already spoken to Korea and Japan and that low-risk countries such as parts of China, Taiwan and Singapore were also likely low-risk destinations for Australians at present.

Europe and the United States were not on the prime minister’s list because of their rising rate of COVID-19 infections.

Helen Vassos, a director of World Aviation Marketing who is based in Adelaide, advised potential travellers to regularly consult the Department of home Affairs for up-to-date information on travel regulations.

“I have been in the industry since I was a girl, when my father ran his own travel business, and never did it cross my mind that they would ever ground aircraft. The industry has been annihilated and I do not know how people are surviving.

“All flights that are coming into Australia are organized flights, they are not scheduled,” she added.

Mr Kavalakis said that the international airlines were coming into the country with cargo and leaving with passengers.

“They are trying to keep their services viable until the return of normality. They are also seeking to keep to the conditions of their traffic rights – agreements between airlines and airports – and prevent them from lapsing.”

The Department of Home Affairs stresses on its website that there are: “Very limited flights are currently available to and from Australia – you may not travel at this time”

“Unless arriving on a quarantine-free flight from New Zealand, all travellers arriving in Australia, including Australian citizens, are subject to mandatory quarantine for 14 days at a designated facility, such as a hotel, in their port of arrival. …. You may be required to pay for the costs of your quarantine. “

Mr Alysandros told Neos Kosmos that the cost of staying in quarantine facilities could be as high as $3,000 and that this consideration was a reason for the slow return of Australians stranded overseas.

“At present, Melbourne is not accepting international flights. So passengers wishing to return to Victoria after landing in Adelaide or Sydney have to spend two weeks in quarantine before they can enter Victoria,” he said.

Mr Kavalakis said that while it cost Australians wishing to return as soon as possible as much as $8,000, the cost of travelling out of the country for those who could was not much higher than the pre-COVID prices.

He added that the uncertainty over rule changes regarding COVID-19, were a deterrent to anyone wanting to leave the country for tourism.

For an Australian citizen and permanent residents Home Affairs allows you to apply online for permission to travel on the following grounds:

* Your travel is as part of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including the provision of aid;

* Your travel is essential for your business/employer;

* You are travelling to receive urgent medical treatment that is not available in Australia;

* You are travelling outside Australia for three months or longer;

* You are travelling on compassionate or humanitarian grounds; and

* Your travel is in the national interest.

You will also be required to provide evidence to support your claims to travel and your requests may be finalised without further consideration if insufficient evidence is provided.

Home Affairs Department warns on its website: “Remember the COVID-19 situation continues to change. Check each week for border restrictions and for availability of flights.”

A spokesperson from the Australian Border Force told Neos Kosmos: “The work of the Australian Border Force (ABF) has been integral to Australian Government efforts to slow the transmission of COVID-19 across our border and keep travelers and supply chains moving.”

“Any exemptions to Australia’s travel restrictions must be balanced against the Government’s intent in protecting the health of the Australian community.

“Any decision on opening the Australian Border will be made and announced by Government in due course.”

♦For more information about conditions for travel outside Australia go to Department of Home Affairs website entitled: COVID-19 and the border Leaving Australia and also the Australian government smartraveller website.

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