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Australia Will Reopen to Fully Vaccinated Tourists On February 21 After Two Year Pandemic Ban

Australia Will Reopen to Fully Vaccinated Tourists On February 21 After Two Year Pandemic Ban

Australia will fully reopen to fully vaccinated foreign tourists and business travellers after a nearly two-year-long pandemic travel ban. It had been widely reported that Australia planned to further ease border restrictions before the Easter holidays in April but Prime Minister Scott Morrison brought that date forward on Monday.

The relaxed border rules will only apply to travellers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Foreign travellers who aren’t fully vaccinated will still need to apply for a travel exemption and spend up to two weeks in a managed hotel quarantine facility.

“Today’s announcement will give certainty to our vital tourism industry, and allow them to start planning, hiring and preparing for our reopening,” Morrison commented on Monday. More than 650,000 Australian jobs rely on the tourism industry which has been battered by the Australian government’s pandemic response.

Australia had some of the toughest border restrictions in the world for much of the pandemic but citizens, permanent residents and their families were allowed to return quarantine free in November 2021. The country has also already opened to tourists from Singapore, Japan and South Korea.

Since reopening last November, around 580,000 people have entered Australia under the new system.

A pre-departure test is still required for travel to Australia but cheaper rapid antigen tests are now also permitted alongside RT-PCR tests. Passengers have 72 hours to obtain a PCR test before their flight, whereas a RAT test must be taken within 24 hours of travel.

Justifying the decision, Morrison explained: “Australia’s health system has demonstrated its resilience throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including though the recent Omicron wave.”

“With improving health conditions, including a recent 23 per cent decline in hospitalisations due to COVID, the National Security Committee of Cabinet today agreed Australia is ready to further progress the staged reopening of our international border.”

The reopening will not, however, include Western Australia which has indefinitely delayed its border reopening over Omicron fears. The boss of flag carrier airline Qantas compared the state to North Korea in a recent interview because of Premier Mark McGowan’s refusal to reopen.

Qantas was forced to slash planned capacity after WA pushed back its border reopening plans. The airline is currently operating direct flights between London and Australia via Darwin but wants to move back to Perth as soon as possible.

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