Australia looks to open borders to all again
As a result of the pandemic, Australia officially closed its borders in March 2020, leaving citizens, permanent residents, students already accepted onto Australian educational courses, those will work visas and more stranded outside the country.
Since then, as the world battled the issues of Covid-19 and the pandemic continued to impact every aspect of life around the globe, those borders have remained closed. This has caused significant problems for large numbers, with around 38,000 Australian citizens alone still stuck outside the country now, 18 months after the initial border closure.
A slow reopening
However, as the country has embarked on a comprehensive vaccination program, the Australian government has now announced an intention to gradually reopen borders for select people beginning in November 2021.
The key to this, as noted by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, is vaccination levels hitting 80% of the population. Medical advice suggests that with vaccination at this point they can once again allow some levels of international travel, although they were clear that this will not mean new visitors to the country for some time yet.
Instead, opening the borders will be prioritized for three groups to enter the country.
Upon reopening, the first priority for the country will be to enable Australian Citizens and permanent residents back into the country. With thousands stranded abroad since March 2020, enabling them to return home is a crucial part of the border opening, especially as many were on holiday or other non-permanent residence arrangements at the time and have been stuck trying to find places to stay ever since.
From there, the government will turn its focus to skilled migrants. Many skilled migrants with visas and job offers were left stranded as the borders closed, unable to take up their placements. With these skilled migrants often essential to maintain growth in many industries, making sure they can finally take up places is important for businesses across Australia.
Finally, the third group who have been drastically effective by border closures are international students. Australia has a well-earned reputation for having the highest standards of educational facilities, and combined with the lifestyle, are extremely attractive to overseas students. Funds from international students form a key part of the annual income for universities and other educational facilities, which is why these will be the third group the newly opened border will be focused on.
Moving Forward with Border Control
Once those groups are prioritized, there is unlikely to be a broader opening of borders until some time in 2022. Visitors and tourists will have to wait, as the government assess the safety of the country and the global state of the pandemic, but they do say that they expect some level of tourism and visitation to be possible during 2022.
While the focus has been on allowing those who have been waiting so long to return or enter the country, opening the border also allows for citizens and residents to leave the country again, the first time since March 2020. However, travel will be restricted to countries who have also reached an 80% vaccinated population level, and may be further restricted depending on the level of infections in individual countries.