Speed Reads

'from covid cautious to covid confident'

Australia welcomes tourists after nearly 2 years of closed borders

Australia re-opened its borders to tourists on Monday after nearly two years of stringent travel restrictions that earned it the nickname "Fortress Australia," Reuters reports.

According to The Guardian, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Sunday that 56 international flights were expected to land at Australian airports in the next 24 hours. "We are going from COVID cautious to COVID confident when it comes to travel," he said.

Australia's COVID restrictions attracted international attention during the legal battle the culminated in the deportation of Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic last month. Critics referred to Australia's policies — which included quarantine camps, restrictions on internal movement, and bans on public gatherings — as "draconian." Until November, Australian citizens were forbidden to leave the country, and a strict quota system for arrivals left thousands of Australians stranded overseas.

According to data from Johns Hopkins, Australia's death rate from COVID is 19.37 per 100,000, one of the lowest in the world.

Before the pandemic, Australia's tourism industry was growing at a rate nearly double that of overall GDP growth, but many in the industry worry that it will take a long time for tourism to return to pre-COVID levels.

"I think it will be heading towards the end of the year before we really start seeing any international tourism volume," Deb Zimmer told The Guardian. Zimmer is the CEO of BridgeClimb Sydney, a popular attraction that takes tourists to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge arches.

Per Reuters, "Fully vaccinated tourists will not need to quarantine," but those who have not received two doses "will require a travel exemption to enter the country and will be subject to state and territory quarantine requirements."