After an almost two-year pandemic travel ban, Australia will reopen to fully vaccinated international visitors and business travelers.
Australia had planned to loosen border restrictions further before the Easter vacations in April, according to reports, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison pushed that date forward on Monday.
Only travelers who are completely vaccinated against COVID-19 will be eligible for the eased border rules.
Those who are not fully vaccinated must still seek a travel exemption and spend up to two weeks in a supervised 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.
The tourism industry, which employs over 650,000 Australians, has been hit hard by the Australian government’s pandemic response.
For much of the epidemic, Australia had among of the strictest border controls in the world, but citizens, permanent residents, and their families were allowed to return to Australia quarantine-free in November 2021.
Singapore, Japan, and South Korea are among the countries that have already opened their doors to travelers.
Around 580,000 people have entered Australia via the new method since it reopened last November.
For travel to Australia, a pre-departure test is still necessary, although cheaper quick antigen tests are now allowed alongside RT-PCR tests. Passengers have 72 hours to have a PCR test before flying, but they must get a RAT test within 24 hours before flying.
“Australia’s health system has proved its resilience throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly through the current Omicron wave,” Morrison said in justifying the decision.
“With improving health conditions, including a recent 23 percent decline in hospitalizations 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 include Western Australia, which has postponed its border reopening indefinitely due to Omicron fears.
In a recent interview, the CEO of Australia’s flag carrier airline, Qantas, compared the state to North Korea due to Premier Mark McGowan’s refusal to restore the airport.
After WA postponed its border reopening plans, Qantas was obliged to reduce projected capacity.
The airline now operates direct flights from London to Australia through Darwin, but it plans to return to Perth as soon as feasible.