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Australia to ease 18-month international border restrictions from November

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Coronavirus: Australia’s 18-month ban on foreign travel will be lifted from next month.

Sydney:

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Friday that Australia’s 18-month ban on foreign travel will be lifted from next month, easing one of the toughest COVID-19 restrictions imposed globally.

The reopening of the international border to citizens and permanent residents will be linked to the establishment of home quarantines in eight of Australia’s states and territories, Morrison said, meaning some parts of the country will reopen sooner than others.

The first phase of the plan will focus on allowing citizens and permanent residents to leave Australia, with further changes expected to allow foreign travelers to enter the country.

“It’s time for the Australians to give their lives back. We’ve saved lives,” Morrison said during a televised media conference. “We have saved livelihoods, but we must work together to ensure that Australians can regain the life they had in this country.”

Morrison closed the international border in March 2020. Since then, only a limited number of people have been allowed to leave the country for important business or humanitarian reasons.

Citizens and permanent residents allowed to return from abroad are subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine period at the Kota border and a hotel. There have also been some high-profile exceptions to entry for commercial purposes, ranging from Hollywood actors to film movies and TV shows.

Morrison said he expects the first home quarantine system to become operational in November, but the timetable will be determined by individual states and territories.

He has previously said it wants all state and international borders to reopen when the national vaccination rate for people over the age of 16 reaches 80%, which is expected by the end of next month.

However, a delta variant-fueled outbreak that has locked down major cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra for weeks has left state and territory leaders divided. Some who preside over some virus-free parts of the country have indicated they would defy the federal plan.

Under the plan announced on Friday, fully vaccinated Australians will be able to travel abroad and complete a seven-day home quarantine upon return. Those who have not been vaccinated will need 14 days of quarantine in a hotel upon return.

Morrison said his government was working toward quarantine-free travel with countries such as New Zealand when “it is safe to do so”.

An Australian government source said plans to allow foreign visitors to enter the country were being discussed, but it was not yet possible to give a timetable.

Vaccine approval

Australia’s strict border closure has been credited with keeping both fatalities and infections relatively low. It has recorded just 107,000 COVID-19 cases and nearly 1,300 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The country reported 2,084 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, most of them in the states of New South Wales and Victoria. The results showed a slight drop in the number of cases reported the day before, but officials warned against complacency.

Morrison said Australia would also expand its list of authorized COVID-19 vaccines, allowing thousands of citizens and permanent residents still abroad to return through the home quarantine system.

Australia currently only recognizes vaccines manufactured by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca. A version of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, manufactured by China’s Sinovac and Covishield, Serum Institute of India, will be added to the list, the source said.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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