Australia, Oct 1 (Bloomberg) – Australia is racing ever faster toward reopening its international borders, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday announcing that bans on international travel will be lifted in November, a month ahead of schedule.
The shift will allow states that have reached the 80% vaccination rate to welcome immunized overseas visitors, while Australians will be able to travel abroad with no restrictions on destination. Tourism Minister Dan Tehan had said in September that these new rules would be implemented by Christmas at the latest.
“The government’s intention is that once changes are made in November, the current overseas travel restrictions related to COVID-19 will be removed and Australians will be able to travel subject to any other travel advice and limit” Morrison said in a statement Friday.
The current caps on the number of arrivals allowed into Australia will also be lifted, and returning vaccinated Australians will only have to undergo a shortened seven days of home quarantine. The country’s Therapeutic Goods Administration has also advised that Sinovac and Covishield should be recognized vaccines, marking a shift from the government’s earlier stance.
The government will start facilitated commercial flights for Australians overseas, into states and territories that are undertaking home quarantine trials, Morrison later said at a press conference in Canberra.
“I‘m going to keep the deal which said, you go and get vaccinated and we’re going to ensure that the many liberties and opportunities that you have will be restored,” Morrison said.
The nation has been subject to one of the world’s strictest controls on overseas travel since the pandemic hit in March 2020, but as vaccination rates climb rapidly across the country, Morrison has pushed state leaders to wind back lockdown measures that have crippled the economy and seen over half the population subject to strict stay-at-home orders for months.
The commitment to ease the lockdown signals a thawing of the nation’s strict commitment to a Covid-Zero approach, which has been under unprecedented pressure from the outbreak and has seen states take different tactics in reopening. New South Wales and Victoria have produced roadmaps to reopening based on hitting vaccination targets, while states like Western Australia have chosen to keep their borders shut to keep the virus out.
Morrison wants all domestic border restrictions to be lifted by Christmas.