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Australia will open its borders to vaccinated tourists from Feb. 21, the country's Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Monday (Feb. 7), ending some of the world's strictest and longest-running travel restrictions.
The easing of travel rules will welcome back visitors and other visa holders for the first time in nearly two years.
"If you're double vaccinated, we look forward to welcoming you back," Morrison was quoted as saying, according to BBC News.
The Australian government first closed its borders in March of 2020, barring most foreigners from entering the country and putting caps on total arrivals to help halt the spread of COVID-19.
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Some international students and skilled migrants, however, have been allowed to enter the country since last December.
The government’s latest decision will see almost all remaining travel restrictions lifted.
Proof of vax required
Those entering Australia when the borders fully reopen will need to provide proof of vaccination, Prime Minister Morrison said.
Unvaccinated travellers who have a medical reason for not getting their shots will still need to apply for a travel exemption and, if successful, will be required to quarantine at a hotel on arrival.
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Australia has reported more than 2.7 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 4,240 virus-related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Nearly 80 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated.
Despite Monday’s announcement, travel within Australia will still face some restrictions. Western Australia, for instance, remains closed to most non-residents.
Giving "certainty" to Australia's tourism industry
“We are ready to say G'day, and can't wait to welcome back international travellers from 21st February,” Tourism Australia wrote on its LinkedIn page on Monday.
The Prime Minister said the border's reopening would bring a needed boost to the country's travel industry.
"I know the tourism industry will be looking forward to that, and over the next two weeks they'll get the opportunity both for visitors to be coming and for them to be gearing up to welcome international visitors back to Australia," he said.
The changes, according to a statement posted to the Prime Minister's website, will "ensure we protect the health of Australians, while we continue to secure our economic recovery."
"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 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 statement reads.
The eased restrictions will also "give certainty" to Australia's "vital tourism industry," allowing them to start planning, hiring and preparing for the reopening, the statement goes on to say.
An announcement regarding Australia's safe resumption of cruising will be made "in due course," the post says.
Last month, Tourism Australia released a new video, Tune into Aus, to remind travellers overseas of the incredible experiences on offer as the destination prepares to safely re-open to international travel.
Watch it here!
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