International travel is back on again, but the rules have changed. Here’s what you need to know before you book.
Do you have to be vaccinated to go on holiday overseas?
Yes, you’ll need to show proof you are vaccinated before departing. If someone in the family is not yet eligible for vaccination (such as those under 12 years of age), the federal government says you’ll be treated the same as a vaccinated person for the purpose of border arrangements. The same goes for those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons as long as you can provide a medical certificate clearly showing you have a medical condition that means you cannot receive a Covid-19 vaccination – vaccination is contraindicated (see covid19.homeaffairs.gov.au).
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Will any travel insurance cover me for Covid-19?
Until recently, the federal government’s “do not travel” advisory applied to almost every country in the world – a warning system that rendered travel insurance policies close to useless. Now that the advisory has been removed in most cases (some countries still have the warning – check the status of the place you want to visit on smartraveller.gov.au), cover for Covid-19 can come into play.
You’ll need to do your research – some policies include Covid-19 cover as standard, others offer it as an extra and some policies don’t cover it at all, says Natalie Ball of Compare Travel Insurance. “Of those providing cover, most will cover you if you or your travelling companions are diagnosed with Covid and this includes overseas medical expenses, as well as cover for additional expenses such as meals and accommodation should you need to extend your stay, or if you have to quarantine due to catching Covid,” she says. This is often capped at around $2500 per policyholder, although some insurers allow you to choose the limit.
When it comes to cancellations, you’re also covered if you are diagnosed with Covid before your trip and need to cancel, but unfortunately there’s still no cover for travel disruptions caused by border closures.
Look for a policy that clearly states it has Covid cover and that it also covers you for the country you’re visiting, says Ball. “A few insurers exclude cover to destinations classified as level 3 – ‘Reconsider Your Need to Travel’,” she explains. Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines are examples of this.
Compare policies by using a site such as comparetravelinsurance.com.au. Some countries, such as Singapore, have made it mandatory for travellers to take out travel insurance with medical cover for Covid before entry, or when applying for a visa.
How do I reduce my risk of catching Covid-19 overseas?
Travellers who are fully vaccinated and in good health are already off to a winning start, but you can decrease your odds of becoming ill by choosing a destination that has low infection rates and a highly vaccinated population. Check, also, that it has strict requirements surrounding the wearing of masks and providing proof of vaccination status for entry to indoor venues. Sites such as Our World in Data give accurate information in real time. But Professor Peter Collignon, an infectious diseases physician and microbiologist at the Canberra Hospital, speaking at a News Corp webinar on travelling internationally in a Covid-safe way, said the published numbers will be more accurate in countries that are well off.
What will happen if I get Covid while overseas?
Many of us have a (reasonable) fear of being stranded overseas should we test positive to Covid, but this won’t be the case. Australians who continue testing positive on a PCR test can return to Australia if they provide their positive test result (taken no more than three days before departure) and a medical certificate from a doctor stating that at least 14 days have passed from the onset of symptoms, or from the initial positive PCR test. There are a few other technicalities to be mindful of – the letter must also state that there has been clinical resolution of fever and respiratory symptoms for the previous 72 hours and that the traveller has recovered and is no longer considered to be infectious. Travellers will need to seek local medical assistance, and alert the local health authorities and Australian diplomatic missions (consulate, embassy and so on), who can assist with next steps, and – once medical clearance to travel has been attained – the airline so any potential issues can be ironed out early on.
Remember, too, that travellers will need to self-isolate while they’re unwell, but some countries may require them to quarantine. Always check with the destination to see which rules apply.
What kind of face mask is best for travel?
Cloth masks in a decorative design may look pretty, but when it comes to safety, surgical masks offer better protection, Professor Collignon advises. “Look for one that’s manufactured by a reasonable manufacturer so it comes up to appropriate standards in Australia, and make sure it’s fitted properly so it covers your nose and mouth because that gives you reasonable protection.”
Professor Collignon adds that travellers will need to replace their surgical masks every three to four hours, or if they become wet, and that while there is some talk on the medical superiority of N95 masks, a standard surgical mask could be the better choice. “There’s not a lot of convincing evidence in general that N95 masks give you a lot more protection than surgical masks.”
Can I just show my Covid-19 digital certificate as proof of vaccination at check-in for my international flight?
No, you need to provide evidence of your vaccination status in the form of an International Covid-19 Vaccination Certificate (ICVC) when you check in. The ICVC has as a QR code that complies with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards. The easiest way to get the certificate is through your Medicare account in MyGov or through the Medicare app. You’ll need to provide your passport details. You can store the certificate on your phone or print it out as a PDF (it might be safest to carry a hard copy as well as the one on your phone).
I need to show a negative PCR Covid-19 test to enter the country I’m going to. Is this the same as a usual free Covid test?
Most countries require the presentation of a negative Covid-19 PCR test before you’re allowed to board your flight, with the test taken within 48 to 72 hours of departure. But it’s not as simple as popping over to the closest drive-through Covid testing centre and showing the negative text message from your phone. You need to arrange a PCR test through a private pathology clinic – only they can provide the paperwork accepted by authorities. Expect to pay around $150 for a PCR test. Your results will be available electronically and you can also print them. Where do you go to get the test? A Google search will reveal private pathology clinics performing PCR tests and the IATA Travel Pass lab locator is also a handy tool.
If I travel overseas will I need to quarantine when I get home?
Quarantine in Australia is determined by state and territory governments and travellers need to comply with the requirements in the state or territory of their arrival. Restrictions may change at short notice. As it stands, travellers returning to Australia may only enter and travel between NSW, Victoria and the ACT without quarantining. DFAT says unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children aged 12-17 years returning to Australia will not be allowed to access schools for seven days after arrival and they won’t be able to visit high-risk settings such as child care, aged-care facilities, disability care facilities or hospitals until 14 days after arrival.
The latest quarantine requirements for each state are available at australia.gov.au
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