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Australia to reopen borders to fully vaccinated tourists

Tourism 2022-02-07, 3:50pm

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Australia



Prime Minister Scott Morrison looks forward to "welcoming" fully vaccinated tourists from February 21. Elsewhere, Vietnam hopes to welcome students back to schools after nearly a year. Follow DW for the latest.

Australia will reopen its borders to fully vaccinated tourists from February 21, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Monday.

"It's almost two years since we took the decision to close the borders to Australia," Morrison said after a meeting of the national security cabinet.

"If you're double vaccinated, we look forward to welcoming you back to Australia," Morrison added.

Australia imposed some of the world's toughest COVID restrictions since the pandemi began, with the country shutting borders down to visitors and barring Australians to leave since March 2020.  

But the rules took a toll on Australians who were separated from family, battered the tourism industry, and prompted acrimonious debates over the government's handling of the pandemic.

Slowly, the government relaxed some of the rules, allowing some people, like Australian citizens, international students and skilled migrants to enter the country from November 2021. 

The latest decision will see most restrictions lifted and comes after the country abandoned its long-standing zero-COVID policy. The Morrison government instead opted for a 'push through' strategy, ruling out government lockdowns and strict restrictions ahead of federal elections due before May.

Australia recorded 2.4 million cases since the first case of omicron was detected last November. It's once stellar track-and-trace system collapsed under the new wave of cases. Infections did slow last week, with just over 23,000 new infections recorded on Monday, far lower than 150,000 cases recorded around a month ago. 

The number of COVID-related deaths in Australia stands at 4,248 since the pandemic began.

Here are the latest major developments on coronavirus from around the world:

Asia 

Japan is aiming to speed up the country's COVID-19 booster program to 1 million shots a day by the end of the month, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Monday. Kishida said he had instructed ministers to work with local government to double the current pace of vaccination. Japan surpassed 100,000 infections on Saturday and 5% of the population have received booster shots so far.

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics saw 24 new COVID cases among staff and personnel on February 6, the Olympics Organizing Committee said on Monday. Some of those cases were among people who had newly arrived at the destination, while others were detected among Beijing's elaborate "bubble" to curb the spread of infections.

Relatedly, Chinese officials Monday locked down nearly 3.5 million residents in the city of Baise in the southern Guangxi region, near the Vietnam border, after more than 70 COVID cases were discovered there. China is the only major economy in the world still sticking to a staunch zero-COVID policy. - DW News