In an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, Australia closed its international border in May 2020 and only allowed a small number of citizens and permanent residents to enter.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday that foreign visa holders would be allowed to visit Australia beginning in December, the latest move in the country's efforts to relaunch international tourism and boost its economy.

In recent weeks, the requirements were modified to let foreign family members of citizens to enter, and Morrison said that this will be expanded starting December 1 to allow vaccinated students, business visa holders, and refugees to enter.

Morrison told reporters in Canberra, "The return of talented workers and students to Australia is a critical milestone in our route back." From December 1, vaccinated travellers from South Korea and Japan would be allowed to enter Australia, he added.

The return of overseas students, who contribute around A$35 billion ($25 billion) to the Australian economy each year, will be a significant boost to the education industry.

According to official figures, more than 235,000 foreigners, including around 160,000 students, had visas for Australia as of the end of October.

Many Australian institutions have grown to rely on international students, who account for roughly 21% of total enrolments, and the border shutdown has resulted in the layoff of hundreds of employees.

Many students who have been shut out of Australia have stated that if they are unable to resume face-to-face instruction in 2022, they would transfer to another university.

The loosening of border controls is also anticipated to help alleviate labour shortages, which are threatening to hinder the economy's recovery.

"This will provide important relief for firms trying to recruit staff merely to keep their doors open, as well as those that require highly specialised talents to unlock large projects," said Jennifer Westacott, CEO of the Business Council.

With about 200,000 cases and 1,948 deaths, Australia's coronavirus numbers were significantly lower than many other comparable countries, thanks to border controls, quick lockdowns, and strict social distancing measures.

The majority of new infections have been recorded in Victoria, which has 1,029 cases as of Monday. The state of New South Wales, which includes Sydney, recorded 180 cases. Other states and territories have no or few incidences of COVID.

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