Australia officially reopened its international borders on Monday, 21 February, raising the stringent requirements that had previously been placed even on fully vaccinated travellers. Right now, international visitors who meet the vaccination requirements - which include recognised medical reasons - can enter Australia without needing an exemption or having to sit out the 14 days' quarantine.
The reopening is expected to partially relieve at least two significant pressures the Australian economy is facing: one being the decline of the tourism and hospitality sector, which lost an estimated 50,000 jobs during the pandemic, and the other being the chronic shortage of casual labour previously provided by international travellers.
However, the recovery is expected to be slow. Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicate that overseas arrivals in January this year were 10% of arrivals in January 2022, and the aviation sector, which reduced its capacity drastically in the early months of the pandemic, is not particularly optimistic - Qantas, for instance, actually cut its international flight projections for this quarter to two-thirds of its previous estimate.
Australia abandoned its COVID-zero policy months ago and has been progressively raising restrictions to deal with the labour shortages and supply chain impact of testing and isolation rules. Meanwhile, almost 90% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated and the number of daily confirmed COVID cases has come back down from the post-Christmas surge that saw infections spike mid-January, nearly overwhelming hospitals. At this point in time, the country has seen something over 3 million total cases, mainly in New South Wales and Victoria, and is averaging under 20,000 new cases daily.