AUSTRALIA WILL reopen its borders to fully vaccinated visa holders from 21 February, allowing for the return of tourists and business travellers.
Visa holders who are not fully vaccinated will still require a valid travel exemption to enter Australia, and will be subject to state and territory quarantine requirements.
A joint statement from Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Minister for Health and Aged Care, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, said that the changes "will ensure we protect the health of Australians, while we continue to secure our economic recovery."
"Today’s announcement will give certainty to our vital tourism industry, and allow them to start planning, hiring and preparing for our reopening.
"We've been progressively opening our borders since November of last year, and those programmes have proceeded very successfully," said Prime Minister Scott Morrison after a Cabinet meeting.
"The condition is that you must be double vaccinated to come to Australia. That's the rule - everyone is expected to abide by it and it's very important that people understand that requirement if they're seeking to come to Australia.
"I think events earlier in the year should have sent a very clear message around the world that that is the requirement," he said, likely making reference to the Novak Djokovic scandal.
Australia initially shut its borders in March 2020, and since then Australians have been barred from leaving and only a handful of visitors have been granted exemptions to enter.
The rules have seen nationals stranded overseas and families split up, with the tourism industry also taking a big hit.
In 2018-19, tourism generated more than $60 billion for the Australian economy, with more than 660,000 jobs dependent on the industry.
Every month of border closures is estimated to have cost businesses US$2.6 billion, according to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who said today's announcement was a "watershed moment".
"A step back to normality, this decision will allow our flailing tourism sector to recover, saving businesses and saving livelihoods," said chief executive Andrew McKellar. "Given we are an export-oriented economy, our future prosperity is contingent on our international borders being open.
"The announcement today is a crucial step towards opening up to the world and getting Australia back to business.
"Taking the step to reopen our borders is a safe and sensible decision with our vaccination rates over 90 per cent."
Since the Morrison Government commenced Australia’s staged international border reopening on 1 November 2021 there have been almost 580,000 arrivals to Australia including to reunite with loved ones, work or study.
The government also recently announced that it was going to reimburse the cost of visas to backpackers and students arriving into the country in the next few weeks in an effort to bolster the economy.
The Commonwealth continues to work with States and Territories on the safe resumption of the cruise industry and will make further announcements on this in due course.