Australia to open borders to vaccinated travellers on Feb. 21
Some of the world's toughest travel restrictions were imposed in March 2020
Australia will open its borders to all vaccinated tourists and business travelers from Feb. 21 in a further relaxation of pandemic restrictions announced Monday.
Australia imposed some of the world's toughest travel restrictions on its citizens and permanent residents in March 2020 to prevent them from bringing COVID-19 home.
When the border restrictions were relaxed in November in response to an increasing vaccination rate among the Australian population, international students and skilled migrants were prioritized over tourists in being welcomed back to Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his senior ministers agreed on Monday that the border would reopen to all vaccinated visas holders from Feb. 21.
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," Morrison said.
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.
Tourism industry looks to rebuild
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.
"Australian tourism businesses will rejoice in the news that our borders will reopen to all international travelers," the council's managing director Peter Shelley said in a statement.
"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," Shelley added.