Australia Is Ready to Let Citizens Leave Country Again

But international tourists will have to wait
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 1, 2021 7:14 AM CDT
Australians Long Trapped at Home to See Travel Ban Lifted
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison discusses travel restrictions during a press conference in Canberra, Friday, Oct. 1, 2021.   (Lukas Coch/AAP Image via AP)

Australia has outlined plans to lift a pandemic ban on its vaccinated citizens traveling overseas from November. But no date has yet been set for welcoming international tourists back. Travel restrictions that have trapped most Australians and permanent residents at home over the past 18 months will removed when 80% of the population aged 16 and older are fully vaccinated, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday. On March 20 last year, Australia introduced some of the toughest travel restrictions of any democracy in the world. Most Australians have had to argue for rare exemptions from the travel ban to leave the country.

Hundreds of thousands have failed to reach relatives’ death beads, missed funerals or weddings, and have yet to be introduced to grandchildren because of restrictions aimed at keeping COVID-19 out of Australia, the AP reports. A cap on the number of Australian citizens and permanent residents allowed to return each week, aimed at reducing pressure on hotel quarantine, has left 45,000 people stranded overseas. New South Wales would likely become the first state to reach the 80% vaccination benchmark and Sydney’s airport the first to open to international travel, Morrison said. Sydney-based Qantas Airways announced international flights would resume from Nov. 14 to London and Los Angeles.

Morrison offered no clue as to when other nationalities would be welcome to visit Australia. "We’ll be working towards complete quarantine-free travel for certain countries, such as New Zealand, when it is safe to do so,” he said. Travel restrictions will not be lifted for Australians who chose not to be vaccinated, authorities say, but people who could not be vaccinated for medical reasons or children too young to get the jab will have the same privileges as those inoculated. While Australia’s international borders will soon open, several state borders remain closed indefinitely. Western Australia and Queensland states have few cases and the slowest vaccine rollouts. Those state leaders are reluctant to open their borders even after the 80% benchmark is achieved.

(Read more Australia stories.)

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