Australia said on Monday it will reopen its borders to vaccinated travellers this month, ending two years of misery for the tourism sector, reviving migration and injecting billions of dollars into the world No. 13 economy.
The move effectively calls time on the last main component of Australia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which it has attributed to relatively low death and infection rates. The other core strategy, stop-start lockdowns, was shelved for good in December.
The country had taken steps in recent months to relax border controls, like allowing in skilled migrants and quarantine-free travel arrangements – “travel bubbles” – with select countries like New Zealand.
But the reopening, which takes effect on Feb. 21, represents the first time since March 2020 that people can travel to Australia from anywhere in the world as long as they are vaccinated.
“If you’re double-vaccinated, we look forward to welcoming you back to Australia,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a media briefing in Canberra.
The tourism industry, which has relied on the domestic market that has itself been heavily impacted by movement restrictions, welcomed the decision which comes three months before Morrison is due to face an election.
“Over the two years since the borders have been closed the industry has been on its knees,” said Australian Tourism Export Council Managing Director Peter Shelley by phone.
“Now we can turn our collective efforts towards rebuilding an industry that is in disrepair,” he added.
Tourism and Transport Forum CEO Margy Osmond said the industry was “thrilled” by the reopening, but would need coordination to ensure Australia was competitive as a destination…