International tourists could be allowed to come back to Australia before Easter, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says.
With Omicron cases still surging across much of the country, Mr Morrison said tourists and other international travellers could be allowed back once numbers started to fall.
Since international borders reopened in late 2021, only citizens, permanent residents and their families, along with international students and skilled workers, have been allowed to enter.
Mr Morrison said while a specific date had not been set for a return for overseas tourists, he indicated it could come soon.
“I don’t think it’s too far away, to be honest. But we’ve got to get some medical advice further on that, a bit more work to do with the states to make sure we’re comfortable about it,” he told Cairns radio station 4CA on Friday.
“Then I’d like to see us get there soon, certainly before Easter, well before Easter.”
It came after the federal government waived the visa fees for international students and backpackers in an attempt to get more overseas travellers back into the country.
Medical experts have said Omicron waves have peaked or are close to peaking in several states and territories, while deaths remain high, as Australia recorded its single-deadliest day of the pandemic on Friday.
Mr Morrison said the COVID situation was being monitored closely before a date was set for an international tourist resumption.
“We’re just watching how Omicron is sort of washing over the eastern states at the moment. But with Omicron peaking, then that starts opening up opportunities,” he said.
“As those arrangements relax for fully vaccinated arrivals, then you’re going to see people coming back, and with that in place, then international visitors being able to return becomes very possible.”
Tourism operators had expressed concern of a lack of support for the sector, which had been hit hard by the pandemic and downturn in international visitor numbers.