Australia to end ban on citizens leaving country

A plane on the tarmac
People in Australia will no longer need an exemption to travel overseas

Australia has confirmed it will lift a ban next week that has prevented its own citizens travelling overseas without permission.

Australians have spent 19 months under some of the world’s strictest border rules, in an effort to keep out Covid-19.

From 1 November people will no longer need an exemption to leave the country – provided they are fully vaccinated.

Only Australians are eligible but some rules for foreigners will be relaxed soon, the government said.

“Before the end of the year, we anticipate welcoming fully vaccinated skilled workers and international students,” Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said in a statement.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison had foreshadowed the reopening of Australia’s border, saying it was “time to give Australians their lives back”.

The changes have been met with delight by Australians and others globally. Many have spent long periods separated from loved ones. A surge in vaccinations has allowed some Australian states to end their strategy of eliminating all cases.

Mr Morrison has said Australia is “very close” to agreeing to a travel bubble with Singapore. On Tuesday the Asian city-state said it would allow fully vaccinated Australians, permanent residents and their families to enter without quarantine from 8 November. But states such as Queensland and Western Australia have threatened to keep their borders closed until vaccine rates are even higher.

At present, people can leave Australia – which has recorded more than 160,000 Covid-19 infections and 1,653 deaths – only for exceptional reasons such as essential work or visiting a dying relative. Entry is permitted for citizens and others with exemptions, but there are tight caps on arrival numbers. This has left tens of thousands stranded overseas.

Australians under 12 will be exempt from the new vaccination requirement for travel. All other unvaccinated travellers still need exemptions and must quarantine for 14 days in hotels on return.

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