Australia will reopen its borders when 80 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Friday.
The announcement goes a long way out of ‘Fortress Australia’, as only 14 percent of the population has been fully stung – meaning 66 percent still need two vaccines before virus restrictions can end.
It is one of a series of goals unveiled by Morrison aimed at ending the pandemic in Australia, a year and a half after the country broke away from the rest of the pandemic-ravaged world.
In March 2020, Australia took the unprecedented step of closing its borders almost completely to foreign visitors and banning its globetrotting citizens from leaving.
Sixteen months and several lockdowns, there are currently around six million Australians staying at home – most living in Covid-stricken Sydney – as authorities battle to return to ‘Covid zero’.
And barely 14 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, compared to 56 percent in the UK, leading to growing anger.
Australia will reopen its borders when 80 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Friday, despite 14 percent having already had two shots
Morrison’s announcement outlines a long way out of ‘Fortress Australia’ as only 14 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated – meaning 66 per cent still need two vaccines before virus restrictions can end
Hoping to give the weary Australians some prospect of a return to normalcy, Morrison set a series of goals for the gradual easing of restrictions.
The Conservative Prime Minister indicated that when 70 percent of eligible adults have received two doses, vaccinated residents will have greater freedom from domestic restrictions and a limited number of international students and economic visa holders will be allowed to enter the country.
“I think we could be there by the end of the year,” Morrison said, without setting a firm target date.
When 80 percent of eligible adults are fully stung, vaccinated Australians will be allowed to travel again to safe countries abroad.
Borders will also be reopened to citizens from safe countries who have received any of the vaccines approved by Australian regulators, and the mandatory two-week quarantine requirements for hotels will be relaxed.
Australia’s ‘zero Covid’ strategy has left the country’s case and death toll among the lowest in the world, but has plunged the country into repeated brutal lockdowns
Australia has seen a total of just 34,000 Covid cases and 918 deaths from the virus, but has gone through more than a dozen lockdowns this year alone
Morrison – who is to be re-elected within the year – avoided setting a timetable for the goals, stressing that it would depend on when Australians choose to get vaccinated.
“The timelines are now in the hands of all Australians,” Morrison said.
The rollout of glacial vaccines in the country has been plagued by government missteps, an acute shortage of Pfizer vaccines and skepticism about the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine – which Australia has in large quantities and produces domestically.
“Any vaccine will bring us closer to achieving each of these steps,” Morrison said.
“As Australians, we have to take every step together. And that starts with walking into that vaccine clinic.’
Border closures have led to the first population decline since World War I and tens of thousands of Australian citizens have been stranded abroad.
While hundreds of thousands of Australian residents remain separated from family abroad.
Borders will also be reopened to citizens from safe countries who have received any of the vaccines approved by Australian regulators, and the mandatory two-week quarantine requirements for hotels will be relaxed once 80 percent of the population gets a double shot.
There are currently around six million Australians staying at home – most living in Covid-stricken Sydney – as authorities battle to return to ‘Covid-zero’
As the pandemic continues, there are growing concerns about the impact of long-term restrictions that have kept the country largely Covid-free, with Australia registering just under 34,000 cases.
There is also growing fear that Sydney’s prolonged lockdown – now in its fifth week and expected to last until the end of August – could plunge Australia into a second recession in as many years.
In early 2020, the global Covid slowdown helped send Australia’s already shaky economy into its first recession in three decades.
Before the latest outbreak in Sydney, the recovery was faster than expected, with GDP surpassing pre-pandemic levels.