Fully-vaccinated holidaymakers will be allowed to enter Australia from February for the first time in nearly two years as the country relaxes its travel restrictions.
Australia will open its borders to vaccinated tourists and business travelers later this month after it imposed some of the world’s strictest restrictions during the pandemic.
Border restrictions were eased in November which enabled international students and skilled migrants to enter the country, but not tourists.
It will be welcome news to the country’s tourism industry and for Brits with family in Australia.
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The country’s prime minister Scott Morrison said his senior ministers agreed on Monday that the border would reopen to all vaccinated visa holders from February 21.
Mr Morrison said visitors must have proof of vaccination. He referred to Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic being deported by the Australian government last month because he was not vaccinated against coronavirus.
“Events earlier in the year should have sent a very clear message, I think, to everyone around the world that that is the requirement to enter into Australia,” Mr Morrison said.
The Djokovic case demonstrated that visitors gaining visas through an automated process before setting off for Australia does not guarantee that they will meet entry requirements on arrival.
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.
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 November 27 became the first to test positive for the Omicron variant.
The arrivals of students and skilled workers were postponed for two weeks until December 15.
Tourist operators have been lobbying the government to bring tourists back sooner. The southern hemisphere summer is in its final month.
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.
Managing director Peter Shelley said: “Australian tourism businesses will rejoice in the news that our borders will reopen to all international travellers.
“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.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.