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Australia announces limited end to COVID-19 international travel restrictions

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Australia announces limited end to COVID-19 international travel restrictions
Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Friday the partial end to international travel restrictions in the country. Photo by Peter Foley/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 1 (UPI) -- Australia announced Friday it is reopening its borders to some international travel after a contentious 18-month ban.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a news conference Friday that fully vaccinated Australians and permanent residents of Australia who are overseas will be able to travel again.

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Australian officials said they will make the change now that 78% of residents have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine and 55% have become fully vaccinated.

"And that is where Australia is now preparing to move," Morrison said. "This will happen next month. That's when it will start happening, from next month, as states move into those 80% vaccination rates."

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Australia has had its borders shut to all non-citizens since March 20, 2020, with residents needing special permission to leave. The limitation was supposed to last only until Decembe,r but was extended when variants of the coronavirus emerged.

Qantas, Australia's national air carrier, said it will resume trips to and from London and Los Angeles on Nov. 14.

Those who are unvaccinated or have received a vaccine not recognized by Australian authorities will have to still spend two weeks in a managed quarantine facility.

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Citizens and residents who cannot be vaccinated because they are under 12 or have a medical condition will be treated as vaccinated while traveling.

The Australian government has approved six vaccines, including ones made by Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Two more were added Friday -- China's Sinovac and India's Covishield.

Jennifer Westacott, Australia's Business Council chief executive, said the international border shutdown has cost the country's economy some $7.6 billion monthly. She called on state and territory leaders to move ahead with their domestic reopening plans.

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