By Lilit Marcus and Alex Stambaugh, CNN
Australia will open its borders to fully vaccinated international travelers from late February, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Monday after a meeting of the government’s national security committee.
“The National Security Committee and Cabinet has decided today that Australia will reopen our borders to all remaining visa holders on the 21st of February,” Morrison said, speaking outside parliament in Canberra.
Australia, which has been closed to most travelers since early 2020, has been slowly easing its restrictions since November through travel programs with New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Japan.
Currently, citizens, permanent residents and their families, along with international students, backpackers and migrant workers are allowed entry into the country though they must show proof of having two doses of an approved vaccine.
The same rule will apply to tourists, unless they qualify for a medical exemption.
“The condition is you must be double vaccinated to come to Australia. That’s the rule. Everyone is expected to abide by it,” Morrison said, adding that state-based caps on quarantine will continue and that those caps will still be determined by state and territory governments.
In January, world tennis No. 1 Novak Djokovic had his visa canceled amid a debate over his vaccination exemption status. He was ultimately deported and could not compete in the Australian Open.
“Your visa is one thing, but your entry into Australia requires you also to be double vaccinated and I think events earlier in the year should have sent a very clear message I think to everyone around the world that that is the requirement to enter into Australia,” Morrison said.
The Prime Minister added that the border’s further reopening would bring a needed boost to the country’s travel industry.
“I know the tourism industry will be looking forward to that, and over the next two weeks they’ll get the opportunity both for visitors to be coming and for them to be gearing up to welcome international visitors back to Australia,” he said.
As of February 7, Australia had confirmed 2,727,260 cases of the coronavirus, of which there were 4,200 deaths.
Last year, Tourism Australia, the national travel and hospitality body, released an ad campaign entitled “It’s Our Best Shot for Travel” in newspapers, on TV, online and across social media.
The campaign encouraged Australians to get Covid vaccines in order to open up national borders and to be able to travel again.
Currently, about 80% of eligible adults in the country are fully vaccinated.
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CNN’s Teele Rebane contributed reporting Sydney Harbour photo by EPA-EFE/Shutterstock