• Kyodo

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Australia will allow eligible foreign visa holders and travelers from Japan and South Korea to enter the country from December, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday.

Australia has largely restricted foreign nationals from entry since March 2020 in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus. But on Sunday 85% of its population age 16 and over have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

"The return of skilled workers and students to Australia is a major milestone in our pathway back," Morrison told reporters in Canberra, as the government looks to cement the nation's economic recovery from the pandemic.

From Dec. 1, fully vaccinated students, skilled workers and working holiday visa holders will not need to apply for an exemption to its international travel ban.

Vaccinated tourists from Japan and South Korea will also be welcomed back, as well as those on humanitarian visas and provisional family visa holders.

Entry into the states of New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory will be quarantine-free once the restrictions ease next week. However, travelers may still face a mandatory quarantine period in other states and territories with lower vaccination rates.

To take advantage of the changed rules, travelers will need to provide proof of vaccination and to return a negative PCR test 72 hours or less before departing for Australia.

The government expects 200,000 international students and skilled workers to enter the country by January, Morrison said.

"We will be actively looking to bring as many people into Australia as soon as we possibly can," Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews told reporters.

Australia first reopened its borders on Nov. 1 to citizens and permanent residents, allowing them to return quarantine-free after some 20 months of strict border controls.

As vaccination rates increase, the nation has continued to ease border restrictions further, allowing the start of a travel bubble between Australia and Singapore on Sunday.

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