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Australia announces reopening date for vaccinated visitors

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Just a few weeks ago, the Australian government indicated that it was using Easter as a target reopening date for vaccinated visitors so it’s both surprising and gratifying to suddenly be told that the country will open up considerably earlier. Now, instead of aiming to reopen at some point in April, Australia says that it will welcome vaccinated visitors in just two weeks’ time.

Australia first closed its borders in March 2020 but unlike a lot of other nations who followed suit, Australia’s ban worked in both directions – few were allowed in or out – so the country has been in a state of ‘travel limbo’ for almost two years.

Now, that limbo is set to end.

Earlier today, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that as of 21 February 2022, double-vaccinated travelers would once again be welcome in Australia but that pre-departure testing would still be required.

This is what has been announced:

  • Double-vaccinated visitors will be allowed to enter Australia from 21 February 2022.
  • Proof of vaccination will be required.
  • Double vaccinated visitors will not be subject to any form of self-isolation or quarantine.
  • People who have a valid medical reason for not being vaccinated will need to apply for a travel exemption and, if successful in their application, will be subject to hotel quarantine.
  • All visitors will be expected to be able to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test. PCR tests taken no more than 72 hours before departure and Rapid Antigen tests taken no more than 24 hours before departure will be accepted.
  • Western Australia will remain off-limits for most travelers with the state only planning to raise the cap on international arrivals from 265 to 530 per week (although some of the state’s quarantine rules will be eased).

Interestingly, while Australia considers redefining what is meant by a “fully vaccinated” person for the purposes of domestic travel (it may be redefined as someone who has had two vaccine doses and a booster shot), Scott Morrison confirmed that two doses of an approved vaccine will be sufficient for international travelers to enter Australia.

It is not clear, however, what effect any change to the definition of a fully vaccinated person would have on a double-vaccinated international visitor’s ability to travel freely within Australia (i.e. from state to state).

I would suggest that if Australian residents are required to have had a booster shot before they are permitted to cross state borders, the same will be expected of international travelers so if you haven’t had a booster shot and are considering visiting Australia, this is something worth keeping in mind.

Bottom line

Australia has announced that it will reopen most of its international borders to double-vaccinated travelers from 21 February 2022. Predeparture tests will continue to be required but there will be no need for international visitors to self-isolate or quarantine upon arrival.

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