SYDNEY: Australia is considering opening its borders to Asian countries, including parts of China, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday (Nov 10), as Canberra seeks to revive an economy ravaged by COVID-19.
Australia in March shut its borders to all non-citizens and permanent residents, though in October, Canberra allowed New Zealand residents to enter. Internal travel is limited, although those restrictions are scheduled to be removed by the end of the year.
Morrison ruled out entry from the United States or Europe, but said Australia may allow people from low-risk places such as Taiwan, Japan, Singapore and even provinces in China.
"We ... are looking at what alternative arrangements could be had to channel visitors through appropriate quarantine arrangements for low-risk countries," Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
China was one of the first countries from which Australia restricted entry.
The consideration of easing travel curbs comes as Morrison said Australia has gone three days without any locally acquired cases of COVID-19.
All cases have been detected in quarantined locals who have recently returned from overseas.
Reviving tourism would be a much-needed boost to Australia's economy, which shrank 7 per cent in the three months that ended in June, the most since records began in 1959.
Tourism in 2019 accounted for 3.1 per cent of the country's gross domestic product, contributing almost A$61 billion (US$44.42 billion) to the economy, government data shows.
Although many Australians are taking holidays locally, many tourism operators are struggling and have been forced to shed staff.
Unemployment ticked up to 6.9 per cent in September, official data showed.
Morrison said Australia would extend higher unemployment benefits until the end of March, though at a reduced rate.
Currently those unemployed receive A$815 every two weeks, but this will fall to A$715 at the end of December.