People gather for a picnic next to Harbor Bridge in the suburb of Kirribilli on September 19, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. Covid-19 restrictions have eased for fully vaccinated people in NSW.
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Fully vaccinated Australians arriving in Sydney from overseas will no longer need to be in quarantine from November 1st.
At a briefing, New South Wales Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet hinted that quarantine-free travel was also possible for all vaccinated international travelers when he said, “We are opening Sydney and New South Wales to the world.”
However, it was overridden by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who later said the easing of entry restrictions at the border was only for Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families.
Individuals falling under these categories are allowed to leave and return to Sydney without being quarantined.
“This is about Australian residents and citizens first,” said Morrison at a briefing after Perrottet’s announcement.
“The Commonwealth government has made no decisions to allow other visa holders to come to Australia under these arrangements. They are decisions for the Commonwealth government, as the Prime Minister and I know, ”he said.
The prime minister on Friday gave no indication of when border restrictions would be eased for other travelers, but said it would be staged and cautious.
Australia closed its international borders in March 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, only citizens and permanent residents have been allowed to enter, but they have to go through two weeks of quarantine.
With fewer flights available and weekly restrictions on how many international passengers can arrive in major cities, thousands of Australians have been stranded overseas.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison during Question Time in the House of Representatives on February 18, 2021 in Canberra, Australia.
Sam Mooy | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Australia’s other major state, Victoria, has a similar reopening roadmap, according to which certain restrictions will be lifted when vaccination rates reach a certain milestone. The state’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, reportedly told local media this week that Melbourne could end the lockdown ahead of schedule.
The rest of Australia still has a long way to go before reaching the 80% vaccination limit. Information compiled by the online publication Our World In Data showed that approximately 53% of all eligible people in Australia are fully vaccinated.
Perrottet also announced a number of local restrictions that would be eased on those vaccinated as the state is expected to meet its target of fully vaccinating 80% of its population by this weekend.
From Monday, face masks will no longer be required in office buildings. Households could receive up to 20 visitors at a time, and outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people would be allowed.
Restrictions would remain for unvaccinated or not yet fully vaccinated people.
Travel between Greater Sydney and regional New South Wales will resume from November – when the state government expects the regional areas to reach the 80% vaccination target, Perrottet said.
A red flag flies on the Sydney Harbor Bridge to commemorate Merchant Navy Day on September 03, 2021 in Sydney, Australia.
James D. Morgan | Getty Images
“We have only been able to do this because people across New South Wales have put a tremendous effort into getting us to this point,” he added.
Australia handled the coronavirus pandemic relatively better than most due to strict rules on social distancing, border restrictions, contact tracing and bans. The country saw a surge in Covid cases this year due to the Delta variant, which forced several major cities to lock down.
In July, the Australian government unveiled a transition plan that said 70 to 80 percent of the population should be fully vaccinated before international border restrictions are relaxed.
Australian airline Qantas said it would resume international flights from November 1, two weeks ahead of the schedule following Friday’s announcements. Qantas said it would offer multiple round-trip flights from London and Los Angeles to Sydney every week.