After two years of keeping its "drawbridge" with the rest of the world in the closed position, Australia and its government, which has imposed some of the most draconian COVID lockdown policies outside of China, is apparently finally ready to let some tourists back in.
Australian PM Scott Morrison said as much on Sunday, when he revealed that Australia's parliament would debate a reopening to tourists as soon as this week. The country shut its borders in March of 2020, and has been going through a staggered reopening in recent months, allowing in only its citizens and residents, along with skilled migrants, international students and seasonal workers. Morrison said last month that he hoped international borders would open before Easter.
According to Reuters, Morrison's sudden eagerness to reopen the country's borders comes as his popularity has been sliding in recent months as a growing number of Australians have become disillusioned with the country's strict lockdowns and other anti-COVID measures.
Across Australia, case numbers have finally come down, as have hospitalizations and deaths. But despite the government's best efforts, they weren't able to stop uncontrolled spread of the virus in the end.
Now that the omicron wave appears to finally be waning, it's time to start repairing all this damage to the Australian economy.
"We are looking forward to be able to make that decision to open up our borders and welcome visitors back to Australia again as soon as we safely and possibly can," Morrison said on Sunday. "But I really do not believe that that is far away."
The first 2022 sitting of the Australian parliament is scheduled for Monday, and Morrison has said that reopening the country to tourists will be discussed "very early on". But he's not the only senior government official to tease about the impending reopening.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said in a TV interview on Sunday that the government is "very close" to making a decision.
Roughly 95% of Australian citizens over the age of 16 have been double-vaccinated. As of midday Sunday, the country reported 43 COVID-related deaths across the country over the prior day.