Australia Plans Digital System to Reopen Travel After COVID

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Australia has announced the introduction of its own COVID-19 vaccine passport system — dubbed the Digital Passenger Declaration (DPD).

This marks a major step towards reopening Australia’s borders to international travel. The country has enforced tight coronavirus travel restrictions throughout the pandemic. Until now, few foreigners have been able to enter. The DPD is planned to change this.

The digital system will replace the pre-existing COVID-19 Australian Travel Declaration form as well as the physical Incoming Passenger Card that passengers must complete.

International travelers will need to submit their details via an online form, including their COVID-19 vaccination status.

The DPD is being developed by Irish-based multinational company Accenture after being awarded the contract by the Australian government.

How Will the Australian DPD Work?

The Digital Passenger Declaration will be done completely online. Passengers will be able to use the platform to submit their essential information for travel using a computer or mobile device. This must be done within 72 hours before the trip.

It is expected that travelers will be required to provide their basic personal information and details about their trip to Australia.

Crucially, they will also have to provide proof of their vaccination status. This is seen as being essential to allowing passengers to enter the country from abroad.

The system will be used for contact tracing purposes as well as for other health-related reasons. The information provided by travelers will be passed from the platform to authorities in the relevant Australian states and/or territories.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews released the following statement:

“The DPD will support the safe re-opening of Australia’s international borders, by providing digitally-verified COVID-19 vaccination details. This will help us to welcome home increasing numbers of Australians, and welcome the tourists, travellers, international students, skilled workers, and overseas friends and family we’ve all been missing during the pandemic.”

When Will the Australian DPD Become Available?

At present, the DPD is in the testing phase of development. The system will be fully tested before being implemented at major Australian airports.

The first functional version is scheduled to be released later in 2021.

Later versions of the system may also be adapted to include other important aspects of travel, including visas and mobile apps for home quarantine.

It is unknown whether there will be some connectivity with Australia’s existing digital visa and travel authorization systems, or whether travelers will have to enter the details of these manually.

Depending on the traveler’s nationality, they may need either an Australian Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) or an eVisitor Visa to enter, in addition to the DPD.

Who Will Be Able to Use the DPD for Australia?

It is expected that the DPD will be implemented slowly to reopen travel step by step. It is likely that it will be trialed with passengers from a select few countries before being made available to more foreign visitors.

According to Australian Minister for Trade and Tourism Dan Tehan, the government is planning to try the new vaccine passport system with some of the neighboring Pacific Island nations, as well as several major travel destinations around the globe. These include Japan, Singapore, South Korea, the UK, and the USA.

Travelers will be able to use the DPD to enter Australia if they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. It is not yet known whether proof of recovery from the virus or negative test results will be acceptable as alternatives to vaccination, as with similar systems in other countries.

In the future, the DPD will likely be made available to visitors from other countries to encourage more international tourism to Australia.

The Digital Passenger Declaration forms part of the country’s national plan for reopening the borders. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously stated that states with 80+% of adults vaccinated can choose to allow international travel, even if other states have not.

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