(CMR) After two years of closing to international travelers, Australia will reopen its borders on 21 February to vaccinated tourists and other visa holders for the first time.
“If you're double vaccinated, we look forward to welcoming you back,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
Australia has had some of the world's strictest border controls throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
In March 2020, the government closed the borders and barred most foreigners from entering the country in a move to combat the coronavirus, which has infected millions in the country.
On Monday, the prime minister announced that those entering Australia when the borders fully reopened would need to provide proof of vaccination.
Unvaccinated travelers who have a medical reason for not receiving the vaccine will have to apply for a travel exemption. If successful, they will be required to quarantine at a hotel.
Since the start of the pandemic, Australia has implemented strict measures, including banning its own people from leaving the country last year.
Currently, citizens, permanent residents and their families, along with international students, backpackers and migrant workers, are allowed entry into the country. However, they must show proof of having two doses of an approved vaccine.
The reopening of the country is expected to revive the tourism industry.
“Over the two years since the borders have been closed, the industry has been on its knees,” said Australian Tourism Export Council Managing Director Peter Shelley by phone.
“Now we can turn our collective efforts towards rebuilding an industry that is in disrepair,” he added.
However, turning things around could take time. According to Reuters, international and domestic tourism losses since the start of the pandemic totaled A$101.7 billion ($72 billion). International travel spending in Australia plunged from A$44.6 billion in the 2018-19 financial year to A$1.3 billion in 2020-21.