The Australian border may soon be reopened by tourists, and the federal cabinet is set to consider dates for foreign travelers to return to Australia.
The Federal Cabinet’s Commissar of State Security will meet later on Monday to discuss reopening times for foreign tourists.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday that he hopes for an immediate reopening date given the successful partial opening of the border to students, skilled workers and backpackers.
Since the reopening of the border at the end of last year, only Australians, permanent residents and their families, and skilled immigrants and students have been able to enter the country if fully vaccinated.
Finance Minister Josh Frydenberg said tourists would be the next step in the reopening timeline.
“Today, I think medical professionals are considering border restrictions on tourists in the context of rising vaccination rates and the development of booster programs,” he told Nine Network on Monday.
“Currently, the vaccination rate is high, so we are changing our border policy.”
Despite the large number of deaths, the Omicron incidents across the country appear to have peaked, calling on tourists to reopen their borders.
Former Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nick Coatesworth said it was the right time for the border to expand to tourists.
“For Australians, getting things back to normal is a very important sign,” he told Nine Network.
“The fact that vaccinated people, students and tourists come to the country is a safe policy and the right time to do it.”
High immunization rates across the country mean it is safe to return tourists to Australia, Coatesworth said.
“I don’t think we can limit this too much. To be honest, we can safely open the border to those who have taken the primary course,” he said.
The news of the impending reopening for travelers was welcomed by the tourism sector, which was hit hard by the pandemic and border closures.
Margie Osmond, Chief Executive Officer of the Tourism and Transportation Forum, said he would like to see the reopening date as soon as possible.
“This is driven by government satisfaction, but we need a date, so we have a little notice to get ready,” she told ABCTV.
“It takes at least a few weeks. The most important thing here is to understand that this is a step-by-step process.”
Meanwhile, Frydenberg has announced that the government will offer tax cuts to businesses and individuals who need to use rapid antigen testing for work purposes.
He said the cost of testing COVID-19, a function of the Australian Industrial Group, is tax deductible for the tests done to go to work.
“We also ensure that employers do not pay benefits tax if COVID-19 inspections are provided to employees for this purpose,” he added.