Australia has announced a cautious opening to some visa holders and Asian tourists next month.
Australia’s prime minister announced that from 1 December a group of foreign visitors with eligible visas – including refugees, students and working holidaymakers – will be able to travel to the country.
Scott Morrison listed them as: “Eligible visa holders, including skilled and student cohorts, as well as humanitarian, temporary, working holidaymaker and provisional family visa holders.”
In addition, the new opportunity for tourists from Singapore to visit Australia, which began on Sunday, will be extended to Japan and South Korea from 1 December.
Arrivals must provide proof of their vaccination status plus a negative PCR test taken within three days prior to their departure.
At present quarantine-free travel is possible only to New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory (the Canberra region).
For the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, a leading minister raised the possibility that British tourists might be able to visit Australia before the end of 2021.
Karen Andrews, Australia’s home affairs minister, said the Asian visitors will be welcomed “with open arms”. She added: “Whether we can extend that to others over the course of between now and the end of the year, well, we’ll look very carefully at that.”
Previously the government in Canberra had quashed any possibility of international tourism opening up at scale before 2022, with the second half of the year expected to be the earliest.
“Australians are looking forward,” Mr Morrison said. “They’re looking forward to Christmas, they’re looking forward to being at the Ashes, they’re looking forward to coming together, they’re looking forward to 2022.”
But across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s caution about reopening its “Quarantine Free Travel” (QFT) arrangement with Australia has led the national carrier to ground many flights for the rest of the year.
“This follows other cancellations made since QFT was first paused. We estimate around 20,000 customers to be impacted.”
The airline’s chief customer and sales officer, Leanne Geraghty, said: ““This will be particularly tough news for families and friends who were hoping to catch up over Christmas.
“But our hands are tied until border restrictions ease, and we receive further clarity from the New Zealand government.”
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