Australia won’t welcome international arrivals till 2022, with tourists a lower priority
CANBERRA, Australia —
International arrivals won’t be welcomed back to Australia until next year, with the return of skilled migrants and students given higher priority, the prime minister said Tuesday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia expected to reach the COVID-19 vaccination benchmark Tuesday at which the country could begin to open up: 80% of the population age 16 and up having a second shot.
Last week, he outlined plans to allow vaccinated citizens and permanent residents to fly overseas from November for the first time since an extraordinarily tough travel ban took effect in March last year.
On Tuesday, Morrison addressed the issue of incoming people. He said that, after Australians returning home, skilled migrants and international students would be given priority to enter Australia before tourists.
Australian immigration has been at its lowest since World War II because of pandemic restrictions. The pandemic has also had a disastrous effect on Australian universities that rely heavily on fees paid by foreign students. The education sector fears that students will enroll in other countries unless Australia opens its borders to them soon.
“The next priorities are skilled migrants that are very important for the country and who are double-vaccinated, as well as students who are coming and returning to Australia for their studies,” Morrison told Seven Network television.
“We will get to international visitors as well, I believe, next year,” Morrison added.
The Australian Tourism Export Council, which represents a sector that made $33 billion a year from overseas tourists before the pandemic, wants international visitors to return by March.
Australia is racing to inoculate its population as an outbreak of the more contagious Delta variant that began in Sydney in June continues to spread.
The previous national record of 1,599 infections in 24 hours was set by New South Wales, home to Sydney, when its outbreak peaked Sept. 10.
Hospitalizations peaked in Australia’s most populous state in mid-September.
New South Wales leads the other states in vaccination rates, and Sydney’s airport is expected to be the first to reopen to vaccinated travelers.
News Credit: www.latimes.com