Australia could open its borders by Christmas, its tourism minister says.

Australia, which had planned to retain heavy international travel restrictions until mid-2022, now plans to open up months ahead of schedule.

In a speech on Tuesday, Dan Tehan, the minister for trade, tourism and investment, encouraged Australians to keep getting vaccinated and “to stick to the national plan that will see our international border open up, at this rate, by Christmas, at the latest.”

Mr. Tehan’s remarks at the National Press Club of Australia were a departure from the country’s earlier plans to keep its severe lockdown and travel restrictions in place.

Australia’s borders “are closed,” according to the Department of Health’s website. “There is a ban on all overseas travel,” it says, unless an exemption from the government is granted.

The only people allowed inside the country, according to the site, are Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family members. Quarantine-free travel from New Zealand was temporarily suspended in August.

In his speech on Tuesday, Mr. Tehan also said that “hopefully, at the latest by Christmas,” Australians would be able to travel “with a QR code linked to their passport which will be able to show a proof of vaccination.”

In other news from around the globe:

  • New Zealand, which has pursued a zero-Covid strategy, may not get back to eliminating all coronavirus cases in the community, a senior health official there said, according to Reuters. “The important thing is we are going to keep finding any infections and basically continue to contact trace, test and isolate people so that we stop the virus circulating in the community,” Ashley Bloomfield, the director general of health, told Radio New Zealand.