CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Foreign tourists won’t be welcomed back to Australia until at least next year, thesaid Tuesday as he outlined plans for lifting some of the most challenging and most prolonged COVID-19 travel restrictions imposed by any democracy.
Instead, the country will prioritize the return of skilled migrants and students after it hitsthe complete vaccination of 80% of the population aged 16 and older. It is expected to reach that point Tuesday.
The news comes just days after Morrison announced plans toto fly overseas from November for the first time since March 2020.
The severe, which have trapped most Australians at home and kept most foreigners out, have led to the lowest level of immigration since World War II. Australian universities, which rely heavily on fees paid by , have been particularly hard hit, and many fear students will go elsewhere if they are not allowed in soon.
While many countries imposed strict lockdowns that shut down large portions of the economies, Australia‘shave kept life fairly regular for much of the pandemic – though it is now experiencing shutdowns in the biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, and the capital Canberra.
The rules imposed a high emotional burden in a country where half the population was born overseas or had at least one immigrant parent., and some grandparents have been barred from meeting grandchildren in Australia who is now approaching two years old.
Afteron Australians, Morrison said the next priority would be skilled migrants and international students – before tourists. He did not specify when those groups would be allowed in.
“We will get to international visitors as well, I believe, next year,” Morrison said.
The Australian Tourism Export Council, representing a sector that made 45 billion Australian dollars ($33 billion) a, wants international visitors to return by March. Australian tourism operators – which have suffered from the ban on international tourism and frequent internal pandemic – are frustrated that there aren’t more details on how leisure travel will resume.
“International tourist arrivals have to be part of the plan,” said Daniel Gschwind, chief executive of the QueenslandCouncil, Queensland state’s peak advocacy group. “Even if they’re not the priority, we’d like to see how this will be worked out. Many businesses are just hanging on.”
Gschwind that his sector needed torisk could be managed, perhaps through rapid testing and self-isolation.
There are a few exceptions to Australia‘s– and tourism has never been accepted as a reason to cross the border. Those who can enter must spend two weeks in . That will represent a significant obstacle if it remains even after tourists are allowed.
Morrison saidthat his government would work toward “complete quarantine-free travel for certain countries, such as New Zealand, when it is safe to do so.” He did not elaborate on the timing.
when both countries were essentially free of COVID-19 transmission.
But New Zealand reintroduced quarantine after Australian authorities lost control of aoutbreak brought to Sydney in June by a U.S. aircrew.
Thehas changed the game in many countries that previously could essentially keep the virus at bay with stringent travel rules, including New Zealand. On Monday, that country’s government acknowledged for the first time that it could no longer completely eliminate the coronavirus.
to battle outbreaks while also racing to inoculate its population. Its but has picked up.
Victoria State on Tuesday reported a. Australia’s second-most populous state also reported four . The previous national by New South Wales when its outbreak peaked on Sept. 10. Hospitalizations peaked in Australia’s most populous state in mid-September. New South Wales leads the other states in , and Sydney’s airport is expected to be the first to reopen to vaccinated travelers.