After almost two years, Australia will reopen its international borders and welcome back fully vaccinated tourists from February 21.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement on Monday just hours after the government’s national security committee was briefed on the latest health advice.

While the international borders have been opened since late 2021, entry has only been allowed for citizens, permanent residents and their families, with it later expanded to international students, backpackers and migrant workers.

Mr Morrison said the move would be a welcome boost to the tourism sector which had experienced a downturn due to the virus and the loss of foreign visitors.

“I know the tourism industry will be looking forward to that,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“The condition is you must be double vaccinated to come to Australia. That’s the rule. Everyone is expected to abide by it.”

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said visa holders who are not fully vaccinated will still require an exemption and be subject to the relevant state and territory quarantine requirements.

‘Fully vaccinated’

While health officials are debating whether to change the domestic definition of fully vaccinated to include having had a booster shot, Mr Morrison said two doses would be enough for international travellers to arrive.

The prime minister said the definition would not be changed for tourists to enter the country.

“We’ve been very careful looking at the impact, particularly when Omicron hit, and how that would flow through,” he said.

“But the fact is here in Australia, the variant is here, and for those who are coming in who are double vaccinated they don’t present any greater risk than those who are already here in Australia.”

Health experts have previously indicated Australia’s virus situation was improving, with Omicron cases across the country plateauing.

Mr Morrison said the decision to reopen borders to tourists was sensible, with intensive care cases in hospitals declining across the country.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said hospitalisations from the virus were down 27 per cent since the peak of the Omicron wave.

ICU admissions were also down by 35 per cent, while the number of patients on ventilators is down by 40 per cent.

On Monday, 14 COVID-19 deaths were reported in NSW, and there were seven fatalities in Victoria, while there were 19 in Queensland, and one in both the ACT and Tasmania.The latest case numbers showed there were 7347 new infections in NSW and 8275 in Victoria, while Queensland registered 4701 cases, Tasmania had 443 and the ACT had 299.