After almost 2 years of being closed to the world – 704 days to be exact – Fortress Australia is lowering the drawbridge.
From today, vaccinated travellers will be able to come in and out of the country as they did pre-pandemic. It’s the latest step in our reopening: in November, international travel restrictions on Aussie citizens/permanent residents were lifted, and temporary visa holders /international students were allowed back earlier this month.
And with today’s full reopening, we’re deep into ‘COVID-normal’ territory. Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said it was an essential step in our recovery. “Australia is the best country in the world, and we’re excited to be sharing it with the rest of the world again,” he said.
WHAT WAS THE COST OF THE BORDER CLOSURE?
The cost to the economy has been immense. Some reports have calculated it to be about $36.5 million a day in lost expenditure from tourists and international students. And last week, the Bureau of Stas said 1.23 million people arrived in Oz since March 2020 – figures you’d expect to see in a month pre-pandemic.
Population growth also slowed sharply from 1.5% since the mid-2000s to 0.2% last year as immigration ground to a halt. And the human toll has been costly with hundreds of thousands of Aussies stranded overseas. But officials say that the closed border was effective and necessary as a health measure to keep Aussies safe from COVID before vaccines became available. Looking ahead, it will take some time to really get going with countries like New Zealand maintaining significant travel restrictions until later in the year.
AND SOON WE CAN TRAVEL AROUND AUSTRALIA FREELY…
Correctomundo. Western Oz has been the holdout, but Premier Mark McGowan has confirmed the state’s border will re-open on 3 March to travellers who have had a booster COVID vaccine dose. It had initially set a date for 5 February but called that off over concerns about Omicron and the state’s low booster jab rate. But a month is a long time in the pandemic, and the state is now battling an outbreak of the virus with 222 new cases recorded yesterday.
“Eventually, there comes a point where the border is ineffective when you get to high cases numbers within the state,” McGowan said.
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