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Australia reopening borders in November

Australia reopening borders in November
Passengers arrive from New Zealand after the Trans-Tasman travel bubble opened at Sydney Airport in Sydney, Australia, October 16, 2020. (Reuters)

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Australia will reopen its international border from November, allowing travel initially for vaccinated citizens and their relatives.

Since March 2020, only some Australians and others have entered the country due to strict rules. Outbound travel is also banned without an exemption.

The policy has been praised for helping to suppress COVID, but it has also controversially separated families.

States with vaccination rates above 80% will be given the new travel freedoms.

“It’s time to give Australians their lives back,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday.

Travel will not immediately be open to foreigners, but the government said it was working “towards welcoming tourists back to our shores”.

At present, people can leave Australia only for exceptional reasons such as essential work or visiting a dying relative.

Entry is permitted for citizens and others with exemptions, but there are tight caps on arrival numbers. This has left tens of thousands stranded overseas.

On Friday, Morrison said Australia’s mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine – which costs each traveller A$3 000 – would be phased out.

It will be replaced by seven days of home quarantine for vaccinated travellers. When unvaccinated travellers are later given permission to enter, they must do 14 days.

Demand for flights is expected to be high and airlines have already warned of delays in resuming services.

Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra are currently in lockdown due to outbreaks of the virus.

That has helped prompt a surge in the vaccine uptake in recent months.

New South Wales – which includes Sydney – is on track to be first state to cross the 80% threshold, in a few weeks.

But some states have managed to maintain COVID rates of or near zero, shutting their borders to states with infections.

Two such states – Queensland and Western Australia – have threatened to keep their borders closed until vaccine rates are even higher. (BBC)