International travellers entering Australia will no longer be required to be vaccinated — but will still be required to wear a mask on inbound flights.
Minister for Health, Mark Butler, said the decision to lift the requirement from Wednesday was based on advice from the country’s chief medical officer.
The outgoing rule led to a diplomatic incident earlier this year when tennis player Novak Djokovic was allowed into the country to play in the Australian Open, before being effectively deported a week later.
“The Australian Government makes decisions on COVID-related issues after considering the latest medical advice,” said Minister Butler.
“Unvaccinated Australians, as well as certain groups of visa holders, have been able to travel to Australia for some time.
“We will continue to act on the medical advice as needed.”
The federal government progressively increased travel restrictions from late March 2020 as COVID cases began to rise around the globe.
Despite the new change, Australia will keep its controversial rule forcing passengers to wear masks on flights but not at the airport, despite criticism from Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce last month.
Speaking on 2GB radio, Joyce said Australia was “a little behind the curve” on the restrictions, which bizarrely means those flying from Sydney to London don’t require face coverings, but those coming the other way do.
“I think every airline would be encouraging the federal government to move on as soon as they can,” Joyce said.
Currently, international passengers are bound by the rules set by the country they are flying into, while domestically, masks are required in the air but not on the ground at airports.
“I’ve gone back to Europe to North America a few times and I’m wearing the mask for 17 hours. It is not very comfortable. And people know that,” said Joyce.
“In the United States and around Europe, the mask mandates have been dropped.
“We’ve had a change of government and we had to wait for the election to change with a new government in place and a new federal transport minister in place. I talked to her about this and we’re hoping to make progress pretty soon.”