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Covid-19: Australia will reopen its borders to tourists on February 21

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Australia will reopen its borders to fully vaccinated tourists on February 21, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Monday, after imposing some of the toughest entry restrictions in the world. Australians have mostly been barred from leaving their country for the past two years.

Australia will reopen its borders to fully vaccinated tourists on February 21, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Monday, after imposing some of the toughest entry restrictions in the world. “It’s been almost two years since we decided to close Australia’s borders,” Scott Morrison said after a cabinet meeting on national security, adding that the country “will reopen its borders to all visa holders on February 21”. “If you are double vaccinated, we look forward to welcoming you back to Australia.”

Australians couldn’t leave their country for two years

The huge island-continent closed its borders in March 2020, trying to take advantage of its insularity to protect itself from the pandemic. For the past two years, Australians have mostly not been allowed to leave their country and only a few visitors have obtained an exemption to enter the territory.

These restrictions have separated families, hurt the tourism sector and sparked debates about Australia’s status as an open, modern and outward-looking country. Border closures have cost 2.27 billion euros each month, according to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. In recent months, restrictions have been gradually eased for Australians, long-term residents and students.

Abandonment of the β€œzero Covid” policy

This new opening is part of the abandonment of the draconian policy known as “zero Covid” long in force before being overtaken by the wave of the Omicron variant. Only a few countries, including Japan, China, New Zealand and Pacific islands, keep their borders closed. The tourism sector, which had seen the number of visitors plunge by 98%, is delighted with this decision. “We are very happy to be able to reopen,” said Tony Walker, chief executive of the Quicksilver Group, which offers liveaboards and dives and owns resorts on the Great Barrier Reef.

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“These last two years have been incredibly difficult for us,” he told AFP, inviting foreigners to “visit” them. During the pandemic, the company went from 650 to 300 employees. Tony Walker believes that “it will take time to recover”. The border closures also caused staff shortages for tourism players who employed backpackers and working holiday candidates. Despite this announcement, restrictions are maintained for travel within Australia. The sprawling state of Western Australia remains closed to most non-residents. It is therefore currently easier to travel from Sydney to Paris than to Perth.

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