| 28 May 2024, Tuesday |

Australia eases international border ban for first time since March 2020

On Monday, Australia’s international border restrictions were removed, allowing some of the country’s vaccinated citizens to travel freely and allowing many families to reconnect for the first time since March last year.

After 18 months of some of the tightest coronavirus border restrictions in the world, which barred individuals from returning to the nation or leaving unless granted an exemption, 14 million Australians in Victoria, New South Wales, and Canberra are finally free to travel.

More than 80% of people aged 16 and up in those two states, as well as the capital territory, are fully vaccinated, which is a need for international travel to resume.

Australians and permanent residents living overseas may also return, according to data from the foreign ministry, with approximately 47,000 persons expressing interest.

Most tourists, including those who have been vaccinated, must wait, though vaccinated tourists from New Zealand will be let in beginning Monday.

According to the Sydney Airport timetable, a Qantas aircraft from Los Angeles is scheduled to arrive in Sydney at 6 a.m., marking the first time in months that vaccinated Australians have been allowed to step off a plane without being quarantined.

Travelers who have not been vaccinated will still be subject to quarantine, and all passengers must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding.

Australia closed its borders at the start of the pandemic and let only a limited number of citizens and permanent residents return from abroad, subject to an exemption and a mandatory 14-day quarantine period in a hotel at their own expense.

But as it switched a COVID-zero pandemic management strategy towards living with the virus through extensive vaccinations, borders are gradually reopening.

While the Delta outbreak kept Sydney and Melbourne in lockdowns for months until recently, Australia’s COVID-19 cases remain far lower than many comparable countries, with just over 170,500 infections and 1,735 deaths.

More than 77% eligible Australians have been now fully vaccinated, and more than 88% have received their first dose.

  • Reuters