(CNN) – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced plans on Friday, October 1 to reopen the country’s borders to fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents, moving from a strict zero-Covid strategy to a life model with the virus.
Morrison also said that with 55% of the country now fully vaccinated and first dose rates approaching 80%, the government “has been finalizing plans for Australian families to reunite, Australian workers to travel in and out of our country. , and we can work. ” towards welcoming tourists to our shores. ”
“Many countries around the world have safely reopened to international travel and it will soon be time for Australia to take the next step,” he added.
But as states and territories have struggled to contain outbreaks of the highly contagious Delta variant in recent months, the Australian government said it had been forced to reexamine its zero-Covid approach.
Under the plan outlined by Morrison on Friday, Australians and permanent residents could self-quarantine at home, essentially removing limits on the number of people allowed in the country. Those travelers would also only face seven days of quarantine.
The measure was “anticipated” to follow the completion of home quarantine trials in two states, Morrison said.
“To safely reopen and stay open, we need home quarantine pilots in New South Wales and South Australia in the first place to conclude and be successful so they can perform on a large scale.”
For those not vaccinated with an approved vaccine, the 14-day quarantine will be maintained in a government-run facility.
The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration had previously approved four vaccines, manufactured by Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson. Morrison said on Friday that two more had been added to the list as of Friday: Sinovac from China and Covishield from India.
“Australian citizens and permanent residents who cannot be vaccinated, for example if they are under the age of 12 or have a medical condition, will be treated as vaccinated for the purpose of their travel,” added a government statement.
Last Christmas, an estimated 39,000 Australian residents were unable to return to the country to celebrate the holiday.
While the new opening of the border will allow them to return, Morrison was less clear about when people who are not citizens or permanent residents will be able to visit the country.
But Jennifer Evans, executive director of the National Association of Testing Authorities, said she was waiting to hear how the government planned to handle Covid-19 testing for inbound travelers, given that even vaccinated people can carry the disease.
“At this time there is nothing mandated by the federal government. I am asking that we follow the example of the UK government and demand accreditation of all laboratories and facilities that perform pre-trip testing,” he said in a statement.
“Let’s make the tests mean something and give Australians confidence in their results.”