Australia to lift 18-month COVID-19 travel ban in Nov.

Australia will reopen its borders to vaccinated citizens and their relatives in November — 18 months after they were banned from traveling overseas without permission amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s time to give Australians their lives back,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday, adding that people would be eligible to travel when their state’s vaccination rate reaches 80 percent for people aged 16 and older, according to the BBC.

“We’ve saved lives. We’ve saved livelihoods, but we must work together to ensure that Australians can reclaim the lives that they once had in this country,” he said.

Morrison also announced that vaccinated residents would be able to home quarantine for seven days on their return, dodging the current mandatory and costly 14-day hotel quarantine.

New South Wales would likely become the first state to reach that rate and Sydney’s airport the first to open to international travel, he said.

No date has yet been set for welcoming foreigners back, but the government said it was working “towards welcoming tourists back to our shores.”

More than 100,000 requests to enter or leave the country were denied in the first five months of 2021.
Matt Jelonek/Getty Images

“We’ll be working towards complete quarantine-free travel for certain countries, such as New Zealand, when it is safe to do so,” Morrison said.

Amy Hayes, who lives in the UK and has not been back to Queensland in almost three years, said it was “encouraging to see things moving in the right direction.”

“But I’ll believe the borders have reopened when I see it and hear the stories of stranded Aussies being able to get home uninhibited,” she told BBC News.

“Also, all my family and friends are in Brisbane and so although I might be able to fly to Sydney or Melbourne, what would be the point when the Queensland border is still closed with no indication of when it’ll open?” Hayes added.

In March 2020, Australia introduced some of the toughest travel restrictions of any democracy in the world on people entering and leaving the country, whose citizens have had to argue for rare exemptions from the ban.

Police are seen directing motorists at the Coolangatta border check point
Some borders will be open before others, as Australian states race to reach an 80 percent vaccination rate of people 16 or older.
Matt Roberts/Getty Images

Hundreds of thousands have failed to reach dying relatives, missed funerals or weddings and have yet to be introduced to grandchildren because of the restrictions aimed at keeping the deadly bug out of the island nation.

More than 100,000 requests to enter or leave the country were denied in the first five months of 2021, according to Agence France-Presse, which cited data from the Department of Home Affairs.

With Post wires