Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed on Monday that the country’s borders will open as planned for some visa holders this week.
He said that from December 15, vaccinated international students and skilled workers will be able to enter Australia for the first time since March 2020, subject to quarantine requirements in their state or territory of arrival.
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After lengthy closures that separated friends and family for months, the tropical state of Queensland opened its borders to sensitive areas on Monday while the island state of Tasmania will follow suit on Wednesday.
Only Western Australia – a vast mineral-rich region with a stubborn independent streak – will remain closed during the holidays, with its border remaining closed until February 5.
Australia will continue with plans to ease Covid restrictions before Christmas, officials said on Tuesday, even as new coronavirus cases in the country’s most populous state peaked in 10 weeks.
After a string of holiday-related infections in and around Sydney, the state of New South Wales recorded more than 800 new cases on Tuesday – its highest total since October 2.
Seven related deaths have been reported nationwide.
Authorities said the new cases would not dissuade them from dropping most public mask-wearing requirements from Wednesday or lifting the ban on unvaccinated citizens from entering restaurants, bars and public places. major events.
“We have decided as a country to live with this virus,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, touting high vaccination rates as a guarantee of a virtually unrestricted festive period.
“This Christmas we are about to have is a gift that the Australians have given themselves, moreover they have worked together with the parameters that we have put in place,” he said.
After a frosty initial vaccine rollout, more than 89% of Australians over 16 are now double-dose vaccinated and 93% have received their first vaccine.
The interval required before a third booster dose could be given has been reduced from six months after the second jab to five months to provide better resistance.
Australia has also detected more than 85 cases of the Omicron variant, which is believed to be highly transmissible and more resistant to vaccines.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he was “very concerned” that there were not enough people to receive a booster, but pledged not to introduce instant locking.
“My concern is that once the unvaccinated mixes with the vaccinated, you should expect the numbers to increase further and this is worrying as it puts pressure on our doctors and nurses and our health care system. first line, ”Hazzard said.
Announcing plans to build a Moderna mRNA vaccine manufacturing plant in Melbourne, Morrison insisted Australia is “better prepared than almost any other country in the world to deal with this and continue to watch this virus in the future. face and live with “.
Australia has recorded more than 230,000 cases of Covid-19 and 2,113 related deaths in a population of 25 million since the start of the pandemic.