Scott Morrison has revealed the date tourists will return to Australia, locking in the reopening of the international border.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced fully vaccinated travellers will be allowed back into the country from February 21.
A high-level meeting of the federal national security committee met on Monday to discuss when the border could reopen to international tourists.
Under current restrictions only Australian citizens and permanent residents, their families, and those with certain visas and exemptions are allowed to enter the country.
But two years after he first shuttered the borders, Mr Morrison declared double vaccinated arrivals would be welcomed back.
“If you’re double vaccinated, we look forward to welcoming you back to Australia and I know the tourism industry will be looking forward to that,” he told reporters in Canberra.
Unvaccinated arrivals will still need to apply for a travel exemption and will have to provide proof they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.
Mr Morrison said the high profile deportation of Novak Djokovic should serve as a warning to those seeking to bend the rules.
“Your visa is one thing but your entry into Australia requires you also to be double vaccinated,” Mr Morrison said.
“I think events earlier in the year should have sent a very clear message to everyone around the world that is the requirement to enter into Australia.”
But in a twist, incoming tourists will not be required to have received a third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, even if the nation’s expert immunisation panel expands the definition to include the booster dose.
Mr Morrison said chief medical officer Paul Kelly signed off on the double dose arrangement, given the “various arrangement” of third doses across the different countries.
The announcement will come as welcome news for the tourism sector smashed by the pandemic.
Australian Chamber-Tourism executive chair John Hart said the the move was “long overdue” and urged the government to consider other measures to support businesses as the sector restarts.
“With every month of delay costing the economy $3.75 billion, the reopening of our borders is long overdue,” he said in a statement.
“There will be a lag between the reopening of the international borders and when international visitors come to Australia.
“To ensure we are an internationally competitive destination, initiatives such as refunding tourist visa fees and removing passenger movement charges will be needed to encourage tourist arrivals.”
Asked if he could assure the sector he would not pull the rug from under them prior to the reopening, Mr Morrison indicated it was unlikely.
“The fact is here in Australia, the variant is here in Australia. And for those who are coming in who are double vaccinated, they don’t present any greater risk than those who are already here in Australia,” he said.
“It’s a sensible and I think very important move for us to make as we sort of, as best as we possibly can this year drive Australia back to a position of as much normality as we can achieve.”