Australian Prime minister Scott Morrison announced on Monday to reopen borders to tourists from February 21. A country strictest and longest-running pandemic travel restriction has ended.
Morrison chaired a meeting of the national security cabinet and stated that, “It’s almost two years since we took the decision to close the borders to Australia”. Australia’s borders slammed shut in March 2020 in the hope of protecting the continent against a surging global pandemic.
For most of the time since then, Australians have been barred from leaving and only a handful of visitors have been granted exemptions to enter.
Prime Minister Morris announced the borders will reopen to all visa holders “on the 21st of February of this year,” adding, “if you’re twice vaccinated, we look forward to welcoming you back to Australia.”
The rules have stranded nationals overseas, split families, hammered the country’s multi-billion-dollar tourist industry, and prompted often bitter debates about Australia’s status as a modern, open and outward-looking nation.
According to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Every month of border closures has cost businesses an estimated $2.6 billion.
In recent months, rules have been gradually relaxed for Australians, long-term residents and students.
The latest decision will see almost all remaining caps lifted.
It comes after the country’s long-standing “COVID-zero” policy was abandoned, vaccination rates skyrocketed and the once stellar track-and-trace system collapsed under a wave of Omicron cases.
Only a handful of countries remain closed to tourists among them Japan, China, New Zealand and several Pacific Island nations.