On Friday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that an 18-month travel ban on Australians will be lifted from next month, eliminating one of the most stringent COVID-19 restrictions in the world.
The implementation of home quarantine in Australia's eight states and territories will be connected to reopening the international border for citizens and permanent residents, Morrison said, implying that some sections of the country will reopen sooner than others.
The plan's initial phase will allow citizens and permanent residents to leave Australia, with subsequent revisions expected to enable foreign passengers to enter the country.
"It's past time for Australians to reclaim their lives. We've made a difference in people's lives "During a televised press conference, Morrison said. "We've saved livelihoods, but we must work together to ensure that Australians can reclaim the lives that they once had in this country."
In March 2020, Morrison slammed the international border shut. Only a small number of people have been allowed to leave the country since then for vital business or humanitarian reasons.
Citizens and permanent residents have been allowed to return from abroad, subject to quota restrictions and a 14-day quarantine period at their own expense in a hotel. A few high-profile exceptions have been made for admission for business purposes, such as Hollywood stars filming movies and TV shows.
Morrison said the first home quarantine systems should be operational by November, but states and territories will establish their timelines.
He has already stated that when the national vaccination rate for those aged 16 and up reaches 80%, which is expected by the end of next month, he wants all state and international crossings reopened.
However, for weeks, a Delta variant-driven outbreak that paralyzed Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra has caused division among state and territory authorities. Some governors in virus-free areas of the country have stated that they will not follow the federal plan.
According to the plan outlined on Friday, Australians who are properly vaccinated would be free to go overseas and return home after a seven-day quarantine. Those who have not been vaccinated will be obliged to stay in a hotel for 14 days when they return.
When it was "safe to do so." Morrison said his government was working toward quarantine-free travel with countries like New Zealand.
According to an Australian government source, plans are being explored to allow international visitors to enter the country, but no schedule can be given at this time.
The rigorous border restriction enforced by Australia is credited with keeping both fatalities and illnesses to a minimum. Since the pandemic's beginning, it has documented little over 107,000 COVID-19 cases and around 1,300 deaths.
On Friday, the country reported 2,084 new COVID-19 cases, the majority of which were found in New South Wales and Victoria. The numbers of cases recorded were down slightly from the day before, but authorities advised against complacency.
According to Morrison, Australia would also expand its list of approved COVID-19 vaccines, allowing thousands of citizens and permanent residents still abroad to return via the home quarantine system.
Only Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines are now recognized in Australia. Sinovac from China and Covishield from the Serum Institute of India, a variant of AstraZeneca's vaccine, would be added to the list, according to the source.