Australia will reopen international border to vaccinated pax

Melbourne in Victoria state. (PHOTO: Shutterstock) Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday (7 February) that the country will reopen its international border on 21 February to fully vaccinated travellers. The move ends almost two years of isolation imposed to tamp down the COVID-19 virus that has killed millions around the world.

Under the plans announced by Morrison, any incoming traveller will need to have had two doses of a COVID vaccine to be allowed in. Any unvaccinated travellers will have to apply for an exemption before they travel to Australia. Australia’s various state governments will also have a say in what travellers have to do in terms of quarantines.

Morrison made it clear, with a reference to the recent Novak Djokovic saga, that even if people had the correct visa to enter Australia, if they were not fully vaccinated — or had an exemption — they would not be allowed to enter. “I think events earlier in the year should have sent a very clear message to everyone around the world that (that) is the requirement to enter into Australia,” he said.

The government shut the international border to everyone except Australian citizens and residents in March 2020 amid what was then the emerging coronavirus pandemic. It was an unprecedented step up from the travel bans that had been in place for anyone from China, Iran, Italy and South Korea in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Australia.

Morrison said the move would be a welcome boost to the tourism sector. “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 told reporters in Canberra.

Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) said in an announcement that it “is ecstatic at today’s announcement that international borders will reopen to fully vaccinated travellers and tourists”.

“Today’s announcement gives much-needed certainty to airports, airlines, tourism operators, and everyone involved in the international visitation industry,” the company said. “More importantly, today is an extraordinary day for families and friends who have been apart throughout the pandemic, as they can now reunite on their own terms with their loved ones. After a challenging 24 months, BAC is more than ready to move forward with its partners to rebuild tourism across the state and reconnect Queensland to the world.”

The move to reopen was also welcomed by Philip Goh, the Asia-Pacific regional vice president for the International Air Transport Association. “Today’s announcement by the Australian government to open its borders to all vaccinated travellers from 21 February 2022 is greatly welcomed by the airline community and a big step forward,” Goh said. “The Asia-Pacific region has been very cautious in its approach to border restrictions so far but in recent weeks, we have seen growing momentum towards relaxation of travel restrictions – in the Philippines, Thailand, and to some extent New Zealand. We urge other governments in Asia-Pacific to look at similarly further easing their border restrictions so as to enable aviation businesses to accelerate their much needed recovery and to bring maximum benefits to their economies.”

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