An estimated 45,000 plus stranded Australians wanting to return home will be at the front of the arrivals queue when international travel resumes in mid-November, ahead of migrant workers, students and tourists.
Tough coronavirus border clamps will be eased in mid-November with people allowed to leave the country and arrivals welcomed to Sydney.
Clearing the backlog of more than 45,000 stranded citizens and permanent residents will be the government’s top priority.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said fully vaccinated citizens, along with their partners and children, would be among the first to benefit from a shift to home quarantine.
“The first cab off the rank is Australians,” he told the Seven Network on Tuesday.
NSW is expected to be the first state to welcome larger-scale international arrivals who would spend a week in home isolation rather than 14 days in hotels.
Skilled migrants and international students are considered a higher priority than people visiting Australia for a holiday.
“We will get to international visitors as well, I believe, next year. The priority is Australians. We’re ready for takeoff,” Mr Morrison said.
The federal government will also consider adding parents to the list of immediate family members cleared for travel in 2022.
Australia is on track to reach an 80 per cent full vaccination coverage of people aged 16 and above in mid-November.
But progress in virus-free states like Queensland and Western Australia has been slower than NSW, Victoria and the ACT which remain in outbreak-induced lockdowns.
The prime minister continues to raise the prospect of people living in states with high immunisation rates holidaying overseas before being allowed into WA or Queensland.
“People in Sydney and quite possibly Melbourne will be travelling to Bali by Christmas. But no one in WA will,” he told Perth radio 6PR.
Nationwide two-jab vaccination coverage is almost 57 per cent of over-16s and is expected to pass 80 per cent for at least one dose on Tuesday.
Coronavirus cases continue to surge to record levels with Victoria reporting another 1763 new infections and four deaths.
While case numbers are falling in NSW, another daily tally in the hundreds is set to fuel a national high on Tuesday.
The federal government has also clinched a deal for 300,000 courses of antiviral pill Molnupiravir, which is being trialled in the US.
It can be taken at home to treat coronavirus and has shown promising signs of slashing deaths and hospitalisations.
“When we get to 70 and 80 per cent vaccination, then we will have also treatments in place into the future so we can ensure the pressure comes off the hospitals,” Mr Morrison said.
Australia’s medicines regulator would have to give the green light to the treatment.
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