After a nearly two-year ban, Australia has reopened its borders to vaccinated skilled migrants and overseas students in an effort to bolster an economy devastated by stop-start COVID-19 lockdowns and resume international travel.
The revelation of the novel Omicron coronavirus variant led officials to postpone the reopening by two weeks after health officials requested a temporary stop to learn more about the strain, which so far appears to cause milder symptoms than earlier Covid-19 forms.
On the day of the reopening, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told radio station 4BC, “We’re going to live with this virus, and we’re not going to let it drag us back to where we’ve been.” “We have one of the highest immunisation rates in the country, so we should be able to fight this disease.” “We don’t have to accept it.”
Following the Omicron cases, Australia immunised approximately 90% of its people over the age of 16 with two doses and decreased the wait period for booster vaccinations.
Morrison, who was labelled a “casual contact” after attending an event with a COVID-positive person last week, said he has been authorised to fly interstate to Queensland following negative test results.
“That’s what it’s like to live with the virus,” he explained.
In an effort to restrict the spread of the new coronavirus, Australia closed its borders in March 2020 and limited the number of citizens and permanent residents allowed in. The loosening of border regulations is expected to help alleviate labour shortages, which are threatening to stymie the economy’s recovery.
The return of overseas students, who are worth roughly $35 billion ($25 billion) to the Australian economy each year, will assist businesses in filling many casual jobs. At the end of October, more than 235,000 foreigners, including roughly 160,000 students, had visas for Australia, according to government data.
Despite a continuous rise in Omicron infections following a staggered reopening, the state of New South Wales, which includes Sydney, has eased most restrictions for the unvaccinated as of Wednesday.
Since a nearly four-month lockdown ended in early October, the state has registered 1,360 new cases, the largest daily increase in more in three months. Since the outbreak, Australia has seen roughly 235,500 cases and 2,117 deaths.