Starting November 1, all fully vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents will be free to leave the country without a specific exemption, according to authorities, as Australia eases coronavirus restrictions in response to rising vaccination rates.
For more than 18 months, Australians have been unable to go abroad without a government waiver, and thousands of fully-vaccinated people living abroad have been unable to return due to a cap on immigration designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Many of these are now expected to return after Sydney and Melbourne ended quarantine rules for inoculated travelers from Nov. 1. Other cities, mostly virus-free, are expected to ease their border rules once they reach higher vaccination rates.
“The national plan is working … (it) is about opening Australia up and that is because the vaccination rates are climbing so high,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Seven News on Wednesday.
Australia’s drug regulator, meanwhile, provisionally approved a booster dose of Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine for people aged over 18, as first-dose vaccination levels in people over 16 neared 90%.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the rollout is expected to begin by Nov. 8 once the government receives advice from the country’s vaccination technical advisory group.
The decision to ease the travel ban will take effect next week, after Singapore’s announcement on Tuesday that tourists vaccinated against COVID-19 from Australia will be allowed to enter without quarantine starting Nov. 8.
A third wave of infections fueled by the Delta variety prompted lockdowns in Australia’s two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, which have gradually eased restrictions after meeting their vaccine goals.
With about 164,000 illnesses and 1,669 deaths, Australia has fared better than many comparable countries throughout the Delta outbreaks. On Wednesday, Victoria recorded 1,534 new cases, up from 1,510 the day before, and New South Wales reported 304 new cases, up from 282.