After shutting its international borders for nearly 600 days due to the pandemic, Australia welcomed its first group of foreign visitors on Monday as the country took steps to gradually lift restrictions again.
Fully vaccinated travelers from New Zealand who test negative in pre-departure Covid tests can now enter Australia. They would be allowed to skip quarantine in certain jurisdictions like New South Wales, but those conditions may differ in other states and territories.
The next set of foreign travelers who can visit Australia will be those from Singapore.
Travelers from the city-state who are inoculated against Covid-19 can enter New South Wales and Victoria — Australia's two most populous states — from Nov. 21 without quarantine. They would also have to test negative in pre-departure Covid tests.
The decision was reportedly finalized on Sunday when Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison met his Singaporean counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong, at the G-20 summit in Italy.
"Australia is open. Australians are travelling again," Morrison said Sunday at a press briefing in Rome. "Australia's opening up to Singapore, opening up to New Zealand."
Though Morrison did not provide more details at the press briefing, Singapore's Transport Minister S Iswaran said on social media that Australia would allow visitors from Singapore to enter from Nov. 21.
Singapore last week extended its quarantine-free vaccinated travel lane to include visitors from Australia, in addition to 12 other countries including the U.S. and U.K.
Australian flag carrier Qantas resumed its international operations with flights between Sydney and London and Los Angeles.
'Ready for take-off'
From Monday, Australian citizens and permanent residents can leave the country without needing an exemption.
Meanwhile, fully vaccinated Australians and their families have been allowed quarantine-free entry into New South Wales and Victoria since Nov. 1.
"A big day for Australia! We're ready for take-off!" Morrison said in a separate Facebook post. He added that Monday's easing of restrictions was "an important step towards Australia reopening to the world," and urged more people to get vaccinated.
Both New South Wales and Victoria have now fully vaccinated 80% of their eligible population.
Australia has had one of the world's most restrictive coronavirus border policies where only citizens and permanent residents were allowed to enter and had to go through two weeks of mandatory quarantine.
Thousands of Australians had been left stranded abroad as there are fewer flights available and weekly limits were placed on how many people were allowed to enter its major cities.