Australia is going to relax a ban on international travel after a year and a half. From November, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced, Australians and residents with permanent residency will be allowed to leave the country.
This means that one of the strictest measures taken internationally to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is cancelled.
Australia largely closed its international border in March 2020, as the coronavirus spread worldwide. Residents then needed a valid reason to move abroad. Australians who flew back to their home country had to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks at their own expense. The strict border policy earned the country nicknames in the international press as ‘Fort Australia’.
Authorities have widely rejected requests from people who wanted to leave the country or come to Australia. According to government figures, this happened more than 100,000 times in the first five months of this year. However, the government announced on Friday that policy could be relaxed as vaccination rates continue to rise.
“It’s time to give Australians their lives back,” Prime Minister Morrison said at a news conference. Fully vaccinated Australians will soon be allowed to go abroad again and will be able to quarantine at home for seven days upon return. However, non-vaccinated travellers will still have to deal with the mandatory and expensive hotel quarantine of fourteen days.
International travel will not resume at the same time throughout Australia. States must first have a vaccination rate of at least 80 percent, ABC broadcaster writes. Pilot projects are already underway in several places in the country in which people are quarantined at home under supervision.
Australian airline Qantas Airways responded positively to Morrison’s announcement. That company has been operating only a limited number of passenger flights over the past eighteen months. However, it will now again operate several flights a week from 14 November between Sydney and London and Sydney and Los Angeles.
Australia has also hardly allowed any foreigners in the past year and a half. This strict entry ban also applies to Dutch citizens. A government source told Reuters news agency that plans are already being discussed to allow foreign visitors again, but it is still unclear when exactly that should happen.
The closure of the Australian border is cited as one of the reasons that the number of corona infections in the country is relatively low. In Australia, with approximately 25 million, approximately 107,000 corona cases have been diagnosed, and approximately 1,300 patients have died from the virus since the pandemic. Yet, major cities have repeatedly had to go into lockdown in recent months because of the contagious Delta variant outbreaks.