Covid: Australia to end ban on citizens leaving country

Australia has confirmed it will lift a ban next week that has prevented its own citizens travelling overseas without permission.

Australians have spent 19 months under some of the world’s strictest border rules, in an effort to keep out Covid.

From 1 November people will no longer need an exemption to leave the country – provided they are fully vaccinated.

Only Australians are eligible but some rules for foreigners will be relaxed soon, the government said.

“Before the end of the year, we anticipate welcoming fully vaccinated skilled workers and international students,” Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said in a statement.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison had foreshadowed the reopening of Australia’s border, saying it was “time to give Australians their lives back”.

The changes have been met with delight by Australians and others globally. Many have spent long periods separated from loved ones.

“But I’ll believe the borders have reopened when I see it and hear the stories of stranded Aussies being able to get home uninhibited,” Amy Hayes, who lives in England, told the BBC earlier this month.

A surge in vaccinations has allowed some Australian states to end their strategy of eliminating all cases.

Mr Morrison has said Australia is “very close” to agreeing to a travel bubble with Singapore. On Tuesday the Asian city-state said it would allow fully vaccinated Australians, permanent residents and their families to enter without quarantine from 8 November.

But states such as Queensland and Western Australia have threatened to keep their borders closed until vaccine rates are even higher.

<<BBC>>