Australia Announces Borders’ Reopening on February 21

The Australian government has announced that the country would reopen its borders to fully vaccinated tourists and other visa holders on February 21, lifting its strict entry controls for the first time since the pandemic began in 2020.

On Monday, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the nation hopes to welcome people back if they are “double vaccinated.”

Therefore, those who want to enter the country would be required to provide vaccination proof, Mr. Morrison said, adding: “That’s the rule. Everyone is expected to abide by it.”

Unvaccinated visitors can apply for a travel exemption if they have a medical reason for not getting a Covid-19 shot. However, they must self-isolate in a quarantined hotel if their request is approved, the prime minister went on.

Australia has implemented strict controls to combat the spread of Covid-19 cases. After the novel coronavirus was declared a global pandemic two years ago, the government ordered borders to close and banned most foreigners from entering the country.

Some international students and skilled migrants have been allowed entry through travel bubbles, but authorities have tightly controlled total arrivals since March 2020 to prevent outbreaks.

The borders’ reopening has been welcomed by the tourism industry, which has been hit hard by Covid-19 restrictions. The Australian Tourism Export Council Managing Director Peter Shelley told the Reuters news agency: “Over the two years since the borders have been closed the industry has been on its knees.”

“Now we can turn our collective efforts towards rebuilding an industry that is in disrepair,” he added.

Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive Margy Osmond also said the industry was “thrilled about the reopening, but insisted that Australia would need support and coordination from authorities to become a competitive destination again.

“It’s not as simple as just turning on the tap and we see numbers of international tourists back where they were pre-COVID,” she told reporters.

While local cases have skyrocketed in recent weeks as the more contagious Omicron variant spread across the world, 80% of the adult population has been vaccinated against Covid-19 and hospitalizations have slowed. On Monday, Australia logged around 23,000 new infections, the lowest case toll for 2022.