Tourists will be welcomed back on the condition they’re double vaccinated.
After almost two years, Australia will reopen its international borders and welcome back fully vaccinated tourists from February 21.
While the international borders have been opened since late 2021, entry has only been allowed for citizens, permanent residents and their families, with it later expanded to international students, backpackers and migrant workers.
Mr Morrison said the move would be a welcome boost to the tourism sector which had experienced a downturn due to the virus and the loss of foreign visitors.
“I know the tourism industry will be looking forward to that,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“The condition is you must be double vaccinated to come to Australia. That’s the rule. Everyone is expected to abide by it.”
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said visa holders who are not fully vaccinated will still require an exemption and be subject to the relevant state and territory quarantine requirements.
While health officials are debating whether to change the domestic definition of fully vaccinated to include having had a booster shot, Mr Morrison said two doses would be enough for international travellers to arrive.
The prime minister said the definition would not be changed for tourists to enter the country.
“We’ve been very careful looking at the impact, particularly when Omicron hit, and how that would flow through,” he said.
“But the fact is here in Australia, the variant is here, and for those who are coming in who are double vaccinated they don’t present any greater risk than those who are already here in Australia.”
The Business Council of Australia praised the decision in a statement as “the light at the end of the tunnel” for small businesses, tourism operators and the events industry. But it wasn’t entirely celebratory, noting that the move doesn’t apply to the entire country.
Western Australia is still inaccessible to travellers from the rest of the country and the world after delaying its domestic border reopening late last month, as Bloomberg notes. The reopening plan was delayed indefinitely because of omicron, the BBC reports.
“In two weeks’ time, it will be easier for a Londoner to visit the Great Barrier Reef than it will be for a Melburnian to travel to Perth,” the council said. “This is a blight on our international reputation and devastating to WA’s ability to attract both investment and talent.”
Western Australia is the last state with a COVID-zero approach to the pandemic, with strict rules and border closings keeping cases relatively low.