Australia lifts international travel ban for the first time during Covid-19 pandemic

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Australia will lift the ban on citizens traveling abroad without permission, the government announced Wednesday, and the country’s border will be opened to skilled workers and international students by the end of the year.

More than 18 months after Australia closed its international borders, fully vaccinated citizens will no longer have to seek an exemption to leave the country, said a joint statement from the health and interior ministries.

It comes as the nation’s adult double-dose vaccination rate approaches a target of 80 percent.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said that while Australian citizens are currently prioritized, further travel restrictions will be lowered, even for some non-citizens, as vaccination rates rise.

“Before the end of the year, we look forward to welcoming qualified workers and fully vaccinated international students,” he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who foreshadowed the changes earlier this month, said Australia was now “very close” to announcing a reciprocal travel bubble with Singapore, which announced Tuesday night that Australians no longer had to wear. quarantined upon arrival.

Qantas flights to the city-state are scheduled to resume on November 22.

“We are working on a schedule around that time when other visa holders, in addition to Australians who return or go to Singapore and return and are doubly vaccinated, will be able to come to Australia,” Morrison told Channel 7 television. .

On March 20 last year, Australia introduced some of the toughest border restrictions in the world in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

For almost 600 days, countless international flights have been suspended and travel abroad has been reduced to a minimum.

Families have been divided across continents, tens of thousands of citizens were stranded abroad, and foreign residents were stranded in the country unable to see friends or relatives.

Quarantine arrangements for returning vaccinated residents will depend on their place of arrival in Australia.

While Sydney has removed the quarantine for returning travelers, other Australian states with lower vaccination rates still have mandatory and expensive 14-day hotel quarantine requirements.

(AFP)