Australia intensifies plans to lift pandemic travel restrictions

Australia will lift its international travel ban in November under a plan drawn up by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday. For the second time in 10 days, officials accelerated the country’s plans to ease travel restrictions.

Australia had to close its borders from last month until 2022 when Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said they could reopen by Christmas.

“It’s time for Australians to get their lives back,” Morrison said, announcing a policy change that will only allow some Australians and others into the country from March 2020 and block all outbound travel except for essential activities.

Australia’s strict restrictions on COVID, including strict border rules and local blockades, are credited with helping to control infections but also helping to divide families.

As vaccinations ramped up, Morrison urged leaders to ease lockdown measures that have boosted the economy and imposed harsh lockdown orders on more than half the population for months.

The move comes in light of the recent spike in infections across the country. In Victoria, the state that includes Melbourne, officials on Thursday reported a record 1,438 daily cases, a third of which were caused by illegal social gatherings, including parties for last weekend’s grand final, the Australian Super Bowl.

Starting next month, different regions will reopen at different times depending on vaccination levels. Countries and territories may reopen for international travel once they have fully vaccinated 80% of their eligible population.

New South Wales, which includes Sydney, is well on its way to becoming the first region to cross the 80 per cent threshold and could be the first test of Morrison’s push to allow Australians to travel abroad. According to Australian authorities, the state has fully vaccinated around 65.2 per cent of its eligible population.

According to Oxford University’s Our World in Data project, around 44 per cent of Australians have been fully vaccinated.

Once the border is opened, fully vaccinated Australians and permanent residents must be quarantined at home for seven days after entry. Foreign tourists cannot travel right away, but the government has announced that they will allow them.