Today: Australia is reopening to fully vaccinated travelers
There is some good news from Down Under: Australia will finally reopen to fully vaccinated travelers next week (beginning February 21)!
The move comes nearly two years after Australia’s borders were closed in March 2020 in the hope of protecting the island continent against the surging global covid-19 pandemic. For most of the time since then, Australians have been barred from leaving their home country and only a handful of visitors have been granted exemptions to enter. The rules (amongst the strictest in the world) stranded Australia’s citizens overseas, split families for months, hammered the country’s multi-billion-dollar tourist industry, and prompted often volatile debates about Australia’s status as a welcoming, open and outward-looking nation. In recent months, rules have been gradually relaxed for Australians, long-term residents and students, as the country has seen a drop in COVID-19 cases since it hit a peak in early January. About 80% of Australians is fully vaccinated by now, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison noted at a news conference earlier this month that Australia has progressively opened its borders through programs with New Zealand, Singapore, Japan and South Korea, and also began welcoming international students and economic migrants late last year. That welcome will be extended from next week on to visa holders and international tourists, on one condition. “The condition is, you must be double vaccinated to come to Australia. That’s the rule. Everyone is expected to abide by it,” Morrison said, adding that state-based caps on quarantine will continue and that those caps will still be determined by state and territory governments.
In January, in a world-wide covered media event, world tennis number one Novak Djokovic had his visa canceled upon arrival in Australia amid a debate over his vaccination exemption status. He was ultimately deported and could not compete in the Australian Open. “Your visa is one thing, but your entry into Australia requires you also to be double vaccinated and I think events earlier in the year should have sent a very clear message I think to everyone around the world that that is the requirement to enter into Australia,” Morrison said. Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said that visa holders who are not fully vaccinated will still require a travel exemption to enter and will be subject to relevant state and territory quarantine requirements upon arrival. They also will need to provide proof that there is a medical reason they can’t be vaccinated, she added.
Here are the new rules: from 21 February 2022, all fully vaccinated visa holders will be able to travel to Australia without needing to apply for a travel exemption.
- Travelers will need to be fully vaccinated, though there doesn’t seem to be any sort of a booster requirement at the moment (that might change though in the near future)
- Besides documenting proof of being fully vaccinated, travelers to Australia will also need to take a pre-departure test – either a PCR test taken within 3 days of leaving or a Rapid Antigen Test, taken no more than 24 hours before.
- There will be no testing or quarantine requirement on arrival, so you’ll be free to travel around the country as you’d like; the exception is the vast state of Western Australia, which remains closed to most non-residents because of its COVID-zero approach to the pandemic. From next week on, it will be easier to travel from Sydney to Paris than Sydney to Perth.
Fyi, you are considered to be fully vaccinated for travel to and from Australia if you have completed a course of a vaccine approved or recognized by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). This includes mixed doses. Current approved or recognized vaccines and dosages accepted for travel are:
- Two doses at least 14 days apart of:
- AstraZeneca Vaxzevria
- AstraZeneca Covishield
- Pfizer/Biontech Comirnaty
- Moderna Spikevax or Takeda
- Sinovac Coronavac
- Bharat Biotech Covaxin
- Sinopharm BBIBP-CorV (for people under 60 years of age on arrival in Australia)
- Gamaleya Research Institute Sputnik V
- Novavax/Biocelect Nuvaxovid.
- Or one dose of:
- Johnson & Johnson/ Janssen-Cilag COVID Vaccine.
The TGA is evaluating other COVID-19 vaccines that may be recognized for inbound travel to Australia in future.
At least 7 days must have passed since the final dose of vaccine in a course of immunization for you to be considered fully vaccinated. Mixed doses count towards being fully vaccinated as long as all vaccines are approved or recognized by the TGA. If you have not been vaccinated with the above doses or schedule, you do not meet Australia’s definition of ‘fully vaccinated.’ This includes instances where the dosing schedule or vaccine eligibility differs in your country of origin. There are some exceptions to this as outlined below. Travelers with acceptable proof they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, and children under 12 can access the same travel arrangement as fully vaccinated travelers.
I cannot wait to return to Australia following its reopening. My last holiday Down Under dates from 2014 (in fact, I launched this blog following this trip to Australia). With cosmopolitan cities like Melbourne and Sydney, magnificent beaches, virgin rainforests, over-the-top hotels, and the unforgiving wilderness of the Outback, it does not fail to impress. Famous landmarks like Sydney’s Opera House, the Great Barrier Reef and Ayers Rock (Uluru) are on every tourist’s bucket list, which – most likely – also includes spotting some of Australia’s intriguing wildlife, ranging from utterly cute (penguins, koalas and wallabies) to extremely dangerous (crocodiles, sharks, and snakes). But it’s only when you go off the beaten track in the absolute desolation of Kakadu’s wetlands and the unspoiled wilderness of Tasmania, that you will discover what Oz is really about.
What do you make of Australia’s tourism reopening? Are you already planning your holiday to Australia? Leave a comment.