Australia Is Still Set on Reopening Its International Borders by Christmas 2021

The country believes it is still on track for its long-awaited border reopening

Port douglas scenery
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Much to the chagrin of travelers, Australia has remained one of the last holdouts when it comes to border restrictions. As a large island, the country can’t afford to take many risks—and it hasn’t. (Exception: a failed travel bubble experiment with New Zealand, which popped when a spike in Delta variant cases began to climb.)

For Australians, it’s been a long road out of COVID-19 restrictions. Lockdowns have come and gone and come back, and many locals have been separated from their families since the country closed its international borders nearly 19 months ago, on March 19, 2020. With just 41.5 percent of the Australian population fully vaccinated and a sharp rise in cases throughout August and September, the majority of the country is stuck back in yet another lockdown.

Still, the country has announced that it believes it is still on track for its long-awaited border reopening this winter. The goal post to scoring loosened border restrictions comes into play once the country reaches an 80 percent vaccination rate, something Dan Tehan, Australia’s minister for trade, tourism, and investment, said he believes can be done by “Christmas at the latest” as long as Australian citizens do their part, get vaccinated, and follow the national plan toward reopening.  

“We need to claim back our way of life so that we can visit friends and relatives, get back to the workplace, get our kids back in school, travel domestically and internationally again, and welcome the world back to enjoy all that Australia has to offer,” said Phillipa Harrison, the managing director of Tourism Australia’s “It’s Our Best Shot” initiative, which aims to impart the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations numbers on the country’s recovery.  

Tehan said that one potential approach being considered is implementing a vaccine passport, similar to what we’ve seen roll out in European countries, that would allow fully vaccinated travelers from certain countries to travel to Australia finally. The “safe list” of nations would likely have high vaccination rates and low current case numbers. 

While this all sounds well and good and exciting, the reality is that Australia would have to almost double its number of fully vaccinated residents within the next three months to meet its target by Christmas. That could be a big ask, considering the country had initially planned on being fully vaccinated by October 2021. However, they have made significant progress since June 2021, when only three percent of the population had been fully vaccinated.