Covid-19 and Travel News: Live Updates

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Nearly two years after Australia slammed its borders shut to almost all noncitizens, the country will reopen this month to international tourists who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Monday.

“If you’re double vaccinated, we look forward to welcoming you back to Australia,” Mr. Morrison said at a news conference.

Vaccinated tourists, business travelers and all other visa holders can enter Australia starting on Feb. 21, Karen Andrews, the country’s home affairs minister, said on Monday. Visa holders who are not fully vaccinated will face quarantine requirements and need a travel exemption, she added.

The decision will not open all of Australia to foreign visitors, as individual states control their own borders, and can impose flight caps or require quarantines.

Australia’s two most populous states, New South Wales and Victoria, have no quarantine requirement for incoming vaccinated travelers. But Western Australia, which has experienced fewer cases of the virus than any other Australian state, will continue to tightly control who can enter, including from elsewhere in Australia.

Australia has moved from a “Covid Zero” approach, in which it attempted to contact-trace and stamp out any outbreak of the virus, to one in which the country is “living with the virus.” The more contagious Omicron variant has swept across New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria in the past two months, resulting in an explosion in case numbers, but the wave has been subsiding.

Source: Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University. The daily average is calculated with data that was reported in the last seven days.

In March 2020, Australia announced that it would close its borders to all noncitizens and nonresidents and prevent citizens already inside the country from leaving. Australians abroad who sought to go home faced a mandatory two-week hotel quarantine on arrival. For many, limited hotel spaces and frequent flight cancellations made it all but impossible to return.

Since late last year, the country has been steadily reopening its borders, with citizens permitted to enter New South Wales and Victoria without undergoing hotel quarantine. Australia is now allowing students and some laborers to enter, and “travel corridors” with countries like New Zealand, Singapore and Japan — all of which, like Australia, have high vaccination rates — have allowed in a trickle of tourists and others.

The country’s border policies were in the spotlight in January when the tennis player Novak Djokovic, who was not vaccinated against the coronavirus, had his visa canceled by the Australian government.

Speaking about the vaccination requirement at his news conference, Mr. Morrison appeared to refer to the tennis star: “Events earlier in the year should have sent a very clear message to everyone around the world that that is the requirement to enter into Australia,” he said.

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