Australia won’t reopen to international travel until 2022
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.
The Australian government announced on Thursday that it’s prolonging its ban on international travel to last through most of 2022.
Initially, the emergency ban was supposed to be lifted by March 17, 2021, but the country’s Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement on March 2, that the period will be extended until June 17. Now, however, Australia’s Finance Minister Simon Birmingham has said that the country’s borders are unlikely to open until the middle or end of 2022.
Birmingham said that variants of concern spreading around the globe and outbreaks in certain parts of the world like India are the reasoning behind the country’s decision to delay its reopening.
“We recognise that if Australians want to be kept safe and secure … and given uncertainties that exist not just in the speed of the vaccine rollout but also the extent of its effectiveness to different variants of COVID, the duration of its longevity and effectiveness, these are all considerations that mean we won’t be seeing borders flung open at the start of next year with great ease,” Birmingham told The Australian.
While the new target date is still unknown, we know that Australia is looking at late in 2022, meaning that Australia may have been in a hard lockdown for more than 24 months.
The rule isn’t just for people wanting to visit Australia — citizens aren’t allowed to leave the country either unless they are granted an exemption.
“The ferocity of recent COVID outbreaks, the uncertainty in many countries around vaccine rollouts, all create an environment in which, although Australia’s enjoying very high levels of business and consumer confidence, there’s a fragility that underpins all of that,” Birmingham said.
Australia has consistently been one of the strictest nations regarding lockdown rules. It has banned its citizens from leaving since March 2020 and those returning home — be it citizens, permanent residents and those with exemptions — have to quarantine in a designated hotel at their own expense for two weeks, costing about $2,300.
But it seems to be working. The country has so far reported only 910 deaths and about 29,000 cases in a population of 25 million.
In late April, Australia and New Zealand opened their travel bubble, allowing passengers to journey between the two countries without quarantine. However, New Zealand has since suspended quarantine-free travel from Sydney because of two new cases in the community.
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