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7 Feb, 2022 07:00

Australia sets date for international travel reopening

The country has been closed for tourists for nearly two years
Australia sets date for international travel reopening

Australia will fully reopen its borders to all vaccinated tourists with appropriate visas on February 21, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced during a media briefing on Monday. 

Speaking at the morning press conference, the prime minister said the national cabinet had made the decision to reopen borders for all remaining visitor categories after almost two years of very strict rules in light of declining Covid-19 cases and intensive care admissions.

“If you’re double-vaccinated, we look forward to welcoming you back to Australia and I know the tourism industry will be looking forward to that,” he said, reiterating that travelers should be fully vaccinated in order to access Australian territory.

He also noted that the controversial deportation of the unvaccinated Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic “should have sent a very clear message to everyone around the world that [this] is the requirement to enter into Australia.”

The country closed its borders for all international visitors in March 2020 in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus. It has been gradually starting to allow skilled workers, international students and vaccinated backpacking tourists from Japan, Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand to enter the country since last November. 

Since the moment border restrictions first began to loosen, the country has been visited by nearly 300,000 people, but tourism operators were still calling for more international visits. It is estimated that the relaxation of border rules will largely boost hotels, airlines and other tourism-related businesses across the country.

Strict border regulations and lockdowns had helped Australia to keep the proliferation of Covid-19 and new disease cases at a relatively low level until mid-January, when the country saw an unprecedented surge in infections and hospital admissions due to the highly contagious Omicron variant. 

In the past week, new cases and related deaths were relatively low. According to the official statistics, Australia only recorded 25,000 new cases on Sunday, compared to a peak of nearly 150,000 daily cases in mid-January.

In total, around 2.7 million confirmed Covid-19 cases have been recorded in Australia since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, with a total death toll of 4,248.