Australia will lift the ban on citizens traveling abroad without permission, the government said on Wednesday, with the country’s border due to open to skilled workers and international students by the end of the year.
More than 18 months after Australia closed its international borders, fully vaccinated citizens will no longer have to request an exemption to leave the country, according to a joint statement from the Ministries of Health and Home Affairs.
It comes as the country’s adult double-dose vaccination rate has approached a target of 80%.
Home Secretary Karen Andrews said if Australian citizens were currently a priority, more travel restrictions – including for some non-citizens – would be relaxed as vaccination rates increased.
“Before the end of the year, we plan to welcome fully vaccinated skilled workers and international students,” she said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who foreshadowed the changes earlier this month, said Australia was now “very close” to announcing a reciprocal travel bubble with Singapore, which announced Tuesday night that Australians were not no longer had to quarantine when they arrived.
Flights from Qantas to the city-state are scheduled to resume on November 22.
“We’re working on a timeline around that time that will see other visa holders – in addition to Australians coming back or going to Singapore and coming back who are doubly vaccinated – able to come to Australia,” Morrison told Channel 7 television.
On March 20 last year, Australia introduced some of the world’s toughest border restrictions in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
For nearly 600 days, countless international flights were stranded and overseas travel slowed.
Families have been divided across continents, tens of thousands of nationals have been stranded abroad, and foreign residents have been stranded in the country, unable to see friends or relatives.
Quarantine arrangements for the return of vaccinated residents will depend on where they arrive in Australia.
While Sydney has lifted the quarantine for returning travelers, other Australian states with lower vaccination rates still have mandatory and expensive 14-day hotel quarantine requirements.
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