Australia's borders are reopening for vaccinated travelers

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia will open its borders to all vaccinated tourists and business travelers Feb. 21 in a further relaxation of pandemic restrictions announced Monday.

Australia imposed some of the world’s toughest travel restrictions on its citizens and permanent residents in March 2020 to prevent them from bringing Covid-19 home.

When the border restrictions were relaxed in November in response to an increasing vaccination rate among the Australian population, international students and skilled migrants were prioritized over tourists in being welcomed back to Australia.

Prime minister Scott Morrison said his senior ministers agreed on Monday that the border would reopen to all vaccinated visas holders on Feb. 21.

Tourism officials applaud reopening

Tourist operators have been lobbying the government to bring
tourists back sooner. The southern hemisphere summer is in its final

The Australian Tourism Export Council, the peak
industry body representing the nation’s tourism export sector, said
tourism operations were looking forward to rebuilding their markets.

tourism businesses will rejoice in the news that our borders will
reopen to all international travelers,” the council’s managing director
Peter Shelley said.

“It’s been a long, hard and desperate
road for every tourism business across the country and we have lost
many along the way, but this news will give those who have survived a
clear target to work towards and a start point for the rebuilding of the
industry,” Shelley added.

Home Affairs minister Karen Andrews said visitors who could provide proof of a medical reason why they could not be vaccinated could apply for a travel exemption.

Visitors to Australia could also have to contend with various states’ Covid-19 rules if they move around the country. The strictest state border rules are enforced by Western Australia, which covers a third of the island continent and is home to Perth, its capital and largest city. The state allows only 265 international arrivals a week and requires a 14-day quarantine period.

Australia delayed its staged border reopening after two Australians who returned from southern Africa on Nov. 27 became the first to test positive for the omicron variant.

The arrivals of students and skilled workers were postponed by two weeks until Dec. 15.

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