The international border between Australia and the rest of the world is set to reopen to individuals who are fully vaccinated, nearly two years after the government closed it due to the onset of Covid-19.
The new border rules, according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, will come into place on February 21 following new medical advice.
To enter Australia, you must be double vaccinated. That is the law and everyone is expected to follow it, Mr Morrison explained.
Tourism organisations will be relieved to hear the news, as they have been pleading for changes on the border restrictions, which have impacted a lot of businesses.
Unvaccinated visitors would still need to request for a travel exemption and will be subjected to hotel quarantine if they are allowed to enter Australia, according to Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews.
To be deemed vaccinated, Mr Morrison said, travellers must have received the full course of a vaccine, which in most cases is two doses but just one for some overseas vaccines. The Johnson & Johnson vaccination, for example, requires only one dose and is approved for use in Australia.
The ATAGI expert group on vaccines is debating whether to continue using the term “fully vaccinated” or to switch to “up to date with vaccinations,” as is the case with vaccinations for children.
If the definition is altered, booster shots may be included for determining whether or not someone is “up to date.”
With reference to the recent Novak Djokovic saga, Mr Morrison made it clear that even if people had the necessary visa to enter Australia, they would be denied entry if they were not fully vaccinated — or had an exemption.
Mr Morrison commented, “I think events earlier in the year should have sent a very clear message to everyone around the world that (that) is the requirement to enter into Australia.”
The announcement, said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, means that Australia is “finally open for business.” He stated that this is excellent news for their workers and our customers.
The tourist industry employs approximately 660,000 people oin Australia. Alan Joyce commented: “There are a lot tourism operators in city centres and the regions that have been doing it really tough over the past couple of years and this will see more tourists come to their town, spend money and get local economies going again.
“We will be looking at our schedules to see if we can restart flights from more international destinations sooner or add capacity to those routes we are already flying. We have the flexibility to ramp up flights in response to demand.”
During the growing coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, the government shut the international border to everyone except Australian citizens and residents.
It was a significant step forward from the travel bans imposed on anyone from China, Iran, Italy, or South Korea in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Australia. The Australian government gradually began to reopen to select countries and persons, beginning with the New Zealand travel bubble and most recently allowing visitors from Japan and South Korea, as well as some visa holders, to return.
– India’s new age travel digital media