There is some good news for travelers looking to take that long awaited trip down under. This past week, Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, announced that the country MAY reopen its borders as early as the Easter holiday.
This is very welcome news to foreigners who have been waiting nearly two full years to enter the exotic country known for koalas, kangaroos, and beaches. Australia closed its borders to international travel back in March 2020 due to the threat of the COVID-19 virus. Since then, Australia has enacted some of the strictest entry rules throughout the world. For nearly twenty months, the country did not allow foreigners to enter AND severely restricted the movements of even their own citizens. As a result, the country has seen some of the lowest COVID-19 levels during the pandemic.
Slow Progress Toward Reopening
This past fall, the country FINALLY began to take baby steps toward reopening their borders. On November 1, 2021 Australian citizens, permanent residents, their families, and people with special permission were finally allowed to enter the country. Residents were also able to travel anywhere throughout the large country, except Western Australia and Tasmania which continued to remain in lockdown.
Then on December 15th, 2021, Australia reopened their doors to returning residents, working holiday visa holders, and international students as long as they were fully vaccinated. This also included fully vaccinated visitors from New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea who were allowed to enter in the last year due to travel bubble agreements.
Requirements To Enter
As of now, all eligible travelers to Australia are still asked to show a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding their flight. It must be taken 72 hours before boarding if it’s a PCR test, and 24 hours before if it’s a rapid antigen test. Travelers also are required to complete an Australia Travel Declaration at least 72 hours before departure, which includes proof of their vaccination status.
Hope For The Future?
With the most recent announcement, tourists and locals may finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Over the weekend Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, spoke with 4CA Radio Cairns where he expressed that he would like the border to be open “well before Easter” — which falls on April 17th of this year.
Though, the Prime Minister went on to discuss his apprehension and hesitance toward reopening, citing the recent rise in omicron cases and hospitalizations. Australia’s infections have surged from the most recent variant, affecting their most populous states of New South Wales and Victoria where 2.3 million cases were recorded. “The key issue that I’ve tasked our health officials to advise me on in opening the border to international arrivals, is what impact that might have on the hospital system and the pressures that could come from additional people coming into the country at this time.”
He went on to say, “As always, I just want to be confident that before we take that decision, that we are confident about the situation that our hospitals are in, which have been performing extremely well, under great pressure, particularly here in New South Wales, but as well in Victoria.” This past Wednesday Australia recorded 34,320 cases, with 4,670 currently in the hospital with COVID-19 — well down from the numbers recorded only weeks ago. The country also has reported staggering high vaccination rates, with 93.5% of the population aged 16 and over fully vaccinated against the virus.
As always given the uncertainty of COVID-19, these possible reopening announcements are subject to be changed or even delayed.
But with luck, travelers hopefully will find themselves hitting the beaches of Cairns and scuba diving amongst the Great Barrier Reef in the very near future!
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories