With one of the strictest border policies in the COVID era, Australia has been mostly closed off to foreign visitors for nearly two years, but that is about to come to an end. Beginning Feb. 21, fully vaccinated travelers can enter Australia for vacation and business travel. Unvaccinated visitors can apply for a medical exemption with proof that they have a medical issue that prevents them from getting vaccinated.
Australia was set to reopen late last year but delayed the process when the highly contagious omicron variant was brought in by two Australians returning from southern Africa. The strictness of federal and state protocols was brought to the forefront when top-seeded nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia just before the start of the tennis tournament.
“Events earlier in the year should have sent a very clear message, I think, to everyone around the world that that is the requirement to enter into Australia,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
The country will be entering the final month of its summer tourist season when the new policy goes into effect, and individual states will still have varying protocols. Western Australia, home to Perth, has the strictest controls, requiring a 14-day quarantine and allowing only 265 international visitors per week.
Tourism is a major part of Australia’s economy, and companies whose livelihood depends on international travel have been lobbying the government to reopen.
“Australian tourism businesses will rejoice in the news that our borders will reopen to all international travelers,” Australian Tourism Export Council managing director Peter Shelley told the Associated Press.
“It’s been a long, hard and desperate road for every tourism business across the country and we have lost many along the way, but this news will give those who have survived a clear target to work towards and a start point for the rebuilding of the industry.”