Australia is opening its borders to international travelers for the first time in nearly 2 years.
Officials announced that on February 21, some of the world’s strictest border restrictions are going away. Travelers who are fully vaccinated and can show proof upon arrival will be allowed in the country.
“If you’re double vaccinated, we look forward to welcoming you back,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday.
Unvaccinated travelers who have a medical reason for their status can apply for a travel exemption. If granted, they will need to quarantine upon arrival.
“That’s the rule,” Morrison said. “Everyone is expected to abide by it.”
Much like its neighbor New Zealand, Australia has had one of the strictest border policies during the pandemic, and it has been one of the most successful at containing it.
Australia has reported more than 2.7 million cases over the last 2 years, but just 4,240 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
More than 80 percent of eligible citizens are fully vaccinated, one of the highest rates around the world.
The reopening of borders is good news for the tourism industry, but Tourism and Transport Forum CEO Mary Osmond told Reuters that there is plenty of work ahead.
“It’s not as simple as just turning on the tap and we see numbers of international tourists back where they were pre-COVID,” she said.
It’s been a difficult period for the industry, officials said.
“Over the 2 years since the borders have been closed, the industry has been on its knees,” said Australian Tourism Export Council managing director Peter Shelley. “Now we can turn our collective efforts towards rebuilding an industry that is in disrepair.”
Australia’s announcement comes just days after New Zealand released its own plans to reopen borders. Unlike Australia, however, New Zealand is doing it in five different stages and won’t be fully open until fall.
While border restrictions are changing, other pandemic rules will remain in place, including mandatory check-in for venues that require full vaccination to enter, including restaurants, bars, and live music venues.
Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan said masks will continue to be required, most likely until the end of winter, which is more than 6 months away.
“We can’t be definitive, but what we have seen over east is when they abandon masks, case numbers go up significantly,” he said, according to the Daily Mail.