Australia reopens borders to foreign tourists after almost 2 years

Australia had shut its borders for international tourists at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 to contain the spread of the virus. 

Updated: Feb 22, 2022 11:33 IST
Australia to reopen borders to foreign tourists on February 21, after almost 2 years
Australia to reopen borders to foreign tourists on February 21, after almost 2 years

Australia reopened its borders for fully vaccinated international tourists from February 21, 2022 after almost two years, ending one of the world's strictest and longest travel restrictions imposed due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on February 7 after a meeting of the national security cabinet that the borders will reopen to all visa holders on the 21st of February of this year. He said, "It's almost two years since we took the decision to close the borders to Australia," adding, "if you're double vaccinated, we look forward to welcoming you back to Australia."

The nation will now allow foreign tourists on one condition that they must be fully vaccinated. The states will though continue to set up their own quarantine rules.

Australia's strict border restrictions

Australia had shut its borders for international tourists at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 to contain the spread of the virus. 

Since then, Australians were largely barred from leaving the nation and only a handful of visitors were granted exemptions to enter. The strict border rules left several Australian nationals stranded overseas.

The strict restrictions also impacted Australia's multi-billion-dollar tourism industry.

Significance

The reopening of international borders is expected to boost Australia's tourism industry. The hospitality sector of the nation has been the hardest hit due to the never-ending border restrictions and lockdowns due to the emergence of new variants of COVID-19.

The annual revenue of Australia's tourism industry, which was over $84.9 billion before the pandemic, plunged to 41 percent in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Both Australia and New Zealand had to suspend the trans-Tasman travel bubble following the emergence of the highly contagious Delta variant. The border restrictions continued to be in effect amid the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. 

The authorities began to gradually ease the restrictions after there was a rapid decline in hospitalizations and intensive care admissions in most parts of the country.

The latest decision will see the lifting of almost all remaining restrictions. It comes after the nation abandoned its long-standing "Covid-zero" policy amid the collapse of the country's stellar tracing system amid a new wave of COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant. 

Background

Only a handful of countries still remain closed to international tourists and some of them include the Pacific Island nations, Japan, China and New Zealand.

Australia had imposed a controversial travel ban on arrivals from India last year during the deadly second wave of the pandemic that left thousands of Australians stranded including at least 14 Australian cricketers, who were participating in the IPL 2021 edition. The cricketers included high-profile names such as David Warner, Steve Smith, Pat Cummins and Glen Maxwell. 

The Australian Prime Minister rejected all the requests for charter flights to bring the Australians home, which forced the Australian cricketers to take shelter in the Maldives till they could return home. 

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