Australia VTL: Melbourne and Sydney remove 72-hour self-isolation requirement

NSW and Victoria have scrapped their 72-hour self-isolation requirement for fully vaccinated travellers from 21 December 2021.

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

The 72-hour self-isolation requirement will be removed from 21 December

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:

  • NSW: On or after Day 6
  • VIC: Between Day 5 to Day 7

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:

  • travel directly to their home or accommodation
  • wear a face mask that covers their nose and mouth at all times
  • remain at least 1.5 metres away from other people as much as possible.

A person travelling to reach an appropriate location for self-isolation must comply with the following precautions. They:

  • must travel directly to the destination
  • should not stop in busy areas or rural and remote towns
  • rest breaks or emergency stops should be taken within the car, or in an outdoor location where physical distancing of at least 1.5 metres can be maintained at all times
  • must practice good hygiene including using alcohol-based hand sanitiser to wash their hands before and after touching surfaces
  • if leaving the vehicle:
    • wear a disposable surgical mask that covers their nose and mouth, and practice good hygiene including using alcohol-based hand sanitiser to wash their hands before and after touching surfaces
    • wipe down any surfaces such as petrol bowsers, toilet doors and locks with disinfectant wipes before and after use
  • if required to stop for fuel, use contactless payment methods where available (e.g. using contactless-enabled credit or debit card instead of cash)
  • maintain a record or log of all locations attended, including
    • date, time and duration of time spent at each location
    • description of travel, including starting point, destination, and any rest stops

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. 

Express Pick-up sign on arrivals level

Exit the terminal and continue following the signs (Express Pick-up is highlighted in yellow).

Path to Express Pick-up
Path to Express Pick-up
Path to Express Pick-up

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. 

Swabbing tent in Express Pick-up area
Swabbing tent in Express Pick-up area

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. 

COVID-19 testing (NSW)

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.

4Cyte Macquarie Street swab location

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
  • Gender
  • 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 🇦🇺
  • Eligibility: Australian citizens, permanent residents and immediate family, Singapore citizens
  • No restrictions on 14-day travel history
  • Fully vaccinated with a TGA approved vaccine
  • Singapore citizens: Apply for ETA via AustralianETA app (Apple | Android)
  • Complete Australia Travel Declaration 72h before flight
  • Take pre-departure PCR test 72h before flight
  • Take non-stop flight to Australia (Melbourne or Sydney only)
  • Take PCR test within 24 hours of arrival in Australia and isolate until negative result received
    • Melbourne: Further test between Day 5 and 7
    • Sydney: Further test on/after Day 6

Conclusion

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. 

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Bubbles

And how long before the NSW/VIC rules change again? Crossing state borders seems to be a hit or miss affair with rules changing all the time. I have two bookings in January – plan A and plan B – hopefully I won’t need a plan C.

Daniel

Hope the test requirements in Singapore reduce soon to make it for feasible for Australians to visit, can’t wait to visit!

Daniel

Fingers crossed!

Ortloc

How do you get a local number if you’re not allowed to deviate enroute to the hotel or to the test center?

bizflyer

For testing in Victoria, it says between Day 5 and 7. Is the arrival day counted as Day 0?

Siyuan

Well, the 12 hrs expected waiting time seems not to apply anymore.

I pre-booked an express test on arrival at Histopath, which they did not honour. A police guard was standing at the express test stand, which should say everything.

24 hrs after the free test I was directed to, I’m still waiting in self-isolation for the result.

They will only do express for departure on the same day of flight.

Omicron seems to have caught them unprepared.

Alan

I took my test after arriving in Melbourne on 22 Dec and did not get my result until 25 Dec which was more than 72 hours waiting in self isolation. Testing was done at one of the 4cytes centers. Delays were due to the massive demand in testing for people traveling interstate and overseas during the Christmas period. Many calls to 4cyte to check on the status and sometimes you get through after many attempts and sometimes waiting for 1-2 hrs. Totally stressful experience.

Siyuan

Update: it took 62 hrs to get my result. Local media is reporting three days waiting, and Twitter has complaints from international arrivals waiting one hundred hour for results.

I strongly suggest, unless you really love hotel food, that Australia VTL is not a good choice at this time.

On the other hand, I’m staying at Radisson Blu (Sydney) and the food is excellent. My wife is upset with me for asking if we can still eat all our meals in our room…

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