Australia will raise a ban on citizens traveling overseas without permission, the authorities announced Wednesday, with the country’s border set to open to skilled workers and international students by the year’s end.
More than 18 months after Australia closed its global borders, completely vaccinated citizens will no longer have to seek an exemption to leave the country, a joint statement from the fitness and home affairs ministries said.
It comes as the country’s adult double-dose vaccination rate edged closer to an 80 percent target.
Home Affairs minister Karen Andrews said that while Australian citizens have been currently being prioritized, greater journey restrictions — including for some non-citizens — would be eased as vaccination rates increased.
“Before the end of the year, we anticipate welcoming thoroughly vaccinated skilled workers and global students,” she said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who foreshadowed the changes earlier this month, stated Australia used to be now “very close” to announcing a reciprocal journey bubble with Singapore, which announced late Tuesday that Australians no longer had to quarantine on arrival.
Qantas flights to the city-state are scheduled to resume on November 22.
“We’re working to a timetable around about then which will see different visa-holders — in addition to Australians returning or going to Singapore and returning who are double vaccinated — being capable to come to Australia,” Morrison told Channel 7 television.
On March 20 closing year Australia brought some of the world’s hardest border restrictions in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
For nearly 600 days, countless global flights have been grounded, and the overseas journey has slowed to a trickle.
Families have been split across continents, tens of thousands of nationals have been stranded overseas and foreign residents have been stuck in the country unable to see friends or relatives.
Quarantine arrangements for returning vaccinated residents will depend on where they arrive in Australia.
While Sydney has scrapped quarantine for returning travelers, different Australian states with lower vaccination rates nonetheless have mandatory and costly 14-day hotel quarantine requirements.