Despite recent outbreaks spurred by the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant, Australia remains on track to reopen its borders to foreign tourists when the country reaches vaccination levels of 70-80 percent.
This week, Australia’s flag carrier Qantas projected that the country will reach that milestone and reopen to international travel by December, saying that it expects to resume flights to countries with high vaccination rates including the United States and the United Kingdom in mid-December.
“Vaccination rates are expected to reach 70 percent of the eligible population during November, enabling domestic lockdowns and border restrictions to be steadily eased,” the company said in a release Thursday, revealing a $1.7 billion pandemic-related annual loss.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently confirmed that restrictions will be loosened when 70 percent of residents age 16 and older have been inoculated, with borders reopening to international travelers when at least 80 percent have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. According to Reuters, about one-third of Australia’s adult population has been fully vaccinated while just over half (53 percent) have received at least one dose.
“When Australia reaches those critical vaccination targets later this year and the likelihood of future lockdowns and border closures reduces, we expect to see a surge in domestic travel demand and a gradual return of international travel,” Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said in a statement.
Despite reporting a relatively low 48,815 COVID-19 cases and 991 deaths as of this writing, Australia has experienced a dramatic spike in cases in recent weeks, with the country’s new daily cases topping 1,000 on Thursday for the first time since the pandemic began.
For travelers hoping to experience Australia by the end of 2021, the number to keep an eye on will be the country’s vaccination level. “This level of vaccination will make it easier to live with the virus, as we do with other viruses such as the flu,” the Melbourne-based Doherty Institute said in a statement earlier this week. “Once we reach 70 percent vaccine coverage, opening up at tens or hundreds of cases nationally per day is possible.”