About three weeks ago, New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria (VIC) imposed a 72-hour self-isolation requirement for all international arrivals in light of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.
While this might not necessarily wreck your travel plans, it certainly posed a major inconvenience (and pity those with young kids).
But here’s some good news: From Tuesday 21 December 2021, international arrivals to NSW and VIC will simply need to take a PCR test within 24 hours of arrival, and isolate until they receive a negative result.
Testing is free of charge, and based on my personal experience, results are usually back within 12 hours.
No more 72-hour self-isolation for Melbourne and Sydney
NSW and Victoria made the following joint announcement earlier today confirming the removal of the 72 hours isolation requirement.
From the beginning of Tuesday, 21 December all fully vaccinated international travellers and flight crew arriving in NSW and Victoria will be required to get a PCR test within 24 hours after arrival and isolate until they receive a negative result. Under existing arrangements, they are also required to produce a negative pre-departure test, within three days of boarding their flight.
Previously, all fully vaccinated international arrivals in both NSW and Victoria had to get a test as soon as possible and isolate for 72 hours regardless of when they received their negative test result.
With the revised requirement, all travellers to Australia (aged 5 and above) must continue to take a PCR test within 72 hours of departure.
On arrival, travellers will need to take a PCR test within 24 hours, and isolate until a negative result is received. There are two options available:
- Take a PCR test en route to your self-isolation accommodation
- Travel to your self-isolation accommodation, then leave to take a PCR test (and return immediately, obviously)
These PCR tests are free of charge, even for non-Australians. Based on my own personal experience in Sydney, test results came back within 12 hours.
Both NWS and Victoria will continue to impose an additional PCR test requirement, namely:
The day of arrival is considered Day 0. Just like the test on arrival, these are also free for everyone.
Travelling to self-isolation accommodation
NWS has provided further instructions regarding travelling to self-isolation accommodation. I can’t find similar ones for VIC, but I assume they’ll be more or less the same.
When travelling home or to their accommodation to self-isolate, the traveller must:
A person travelling to reach an appropriate location for self-isolation must comply with the following precautions. They:
These records must be provided to NSW Health within 4 hours of requesting the information.
When entering a taxi or ride-share vehicle, the traveller must use the COVID Safe Check in feature in the Service NSW App, or check in by opening your camera and pointing it at the QR code to check in your details. The transportation provider must wear a mask that fits securely around the face and is worn over the nose and mouth. The passenger must sit in the backseat wherever possible and maximise the flow of fresh air by opening windows or setting the air conditioning intake to outside air.
In other words, you must take a private vehicle, taxi or rideshare to your self-isolation accommodation. It’s also possible to rent your own car, if you wish.
If you’re leaving self-isolation to take a PCR test, you must travel by private vehicle, taxi or rideshare, wear a face mask, stay 1.5 metres away from other people, travel directly to and from the testing venue, and return to your self-isolation accommodation as soon as possible.
Getting a test on arrival in Sydney
If you’re travelling to Sydney, the easiest way to clear your on-arrival PCR test is to do it at at Sydney Airport. However, this is only an option if you can reach the swabbing tent between 7 a.m to 8 p.m.
To find the tent, look for the Express Pick-up signs on the arrivals floor.
Exit the terminal and continue following the signs (Express Pick-up is highlighted in yellow).
You’ll eventually see an open-air carpark with a drive-through tentage. This is the swabbing area, and no, you don’t need to be driving a car to be swabbed.
Note: do not visit the swab centre on the departures level; that’s for pre-departure testing (see next section) and tests there are chargeable.
If you arrive outside the 7 a.m to 8 p.m window, you can take a PCR test at any designated clinic within the 24-hour window. Remember, you can leave your self-isolation accommodation to take the PCR test (and only to take the test; please don’t play stupid games), provided you do not take public transport.
Appointments are generally not required. Remember that not all facilities open on weekends, and others such as mobile clinics may only operate on certain days.
I did my test at the 4Cyte Pathology Clinic at 195 Macquarie Street.
It took about 30 minutes to get swabbed, before which I was asked for an Australian mobile number. I was told, in no uncertain terms, no local number, no swab. I later clarified that this was a 4Cyte company policy, and that other swab providers may do it differently (the one at Sydney Airport does not require it).
The local number is required to send you an SMS with a link to the registration form. The form requests your:
- First name
- Last name
- Mobile number
- Date of birth
- Reason for testing (select “patient has been overseas or on a cruise ship within the last 14 days”)
It took <12 hours to get my result.
For avoidance of doubt, you cannot use a free test as the pre-departure test for travel to Singapore. The free tests do not provide you with a certificate that bears your passport number/date of birth, which is needed for travel.
Summary: Singapore – Australia travel process
Here’s a summary of the travel process from Singapore to Australia, for those arriving on or after 21 December 2021.
|✈️ Summary: Australia VTL
|To Australia 🇦🇺
This is great news for those planning to travel to Australia, although it’s cold comfort for those who did their trips in the earlier part of December.
With the revised requirement, most travellers should be “free” within 12 hours, and if you’re arriving on an evening flight, you practically don’t lose much of your holiday time at all.
As a reminder, Western Australia is also set to reopen their borders in February 2022. Let’s hope the other states follow suit.