Australia May Reopen Borders by Christmas

The tourism minister has good news for those hoping to travel Down Under in the not-too-distant future.

Nature’s Window in Kalbarri National Park, Western Austraila. (Photo: Nick Dunn/Unsplash)

At an online event held earlier today, Australian tourism minister Dan Tehan told the National Press Club that Canberra was aiming to reopen the country’s international borders in time for the year-end holiday season. “I do empathize with the Australians who have been denied the opportunity to travel overseas this year. It’s another reason why everyone should get vaccinated,” he said. “We have to stick to the national plan that will see our border open up — at this rate by Christmas at the latest.”

Australians are currently barred from going abroad except under special circumstances, but outbound travel will be able to resume once 80 percent of the population aged 16 and over has been fully vaccinated. According to the latest figures published by the ABC, 73.4 percent of Australia’s adult population has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine while 48.5 percent is fully vaccinated. The country’s vaccine rollout has been accelerating in recent weeks; September 22 saw a record high of just over 332,000 doses administered nationwide, and 70 percent of the adult population are expected to be double-dosed by late October.

Tehan added that the federal government is pursuing talks to set up quarantine-free travel bubbles with other countries, similar to the existing (but now suspended) arrangement with New Zealand. When Australia reopens, only fully vaccinated overseas visitors will be let in, and Canberra hopes to test mutually recognized “vaccine passports” with partner nations — Japan, Singapore, and the United States are reportedly included.

Both incoming and outbound travelers will need to present a QR code linked to their passport, showing proof of vaccination. Australians who have received coronavirus jabs manufactured by AstraZeneca, Johnson and Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer would be able to leave the country and bypass hotel quarantine on their return. Instead, they will be able to self-isolate at home for a shorter period of time.

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