Sydney has today welcomed its first incoming passengers with no border or quarantine restrictions as NSW reaches its 1 November milestone, with new freedoms for the double-vaccinated including the ability to travel between the state capital and regional areas.
Under a further easing of restrictions in NSW, bookings for hospitality venues are also no longer capped.Sydney Airport (ASX: SYD) received its first quarantine-free international flight - Qantas (ASX: QAN) flight QF12 - from Los Angeles this morning at 6am.
"This day has been a long time coming for our people and our customers. It’s wonderful to see Australians able to reunite with loved ones after such a long time apart," says Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.
"It’s been very challenging time for our international crew, with many of them stood down since March 2020. We are in the process of standing up our Australian-based team members who are excited to get back to doing what they love.
"We are back in the air earlier than anticipated thanks to the millions of people who turned out in droves to get vaccinated. This made it possible for the Federal, and NSW and Victorian governments to open up Australia’s borders and remove quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers."
The news comes nearly 600 days after Australia closed its international borders, while this evening at 6:30pm an outgoing flight will depart from Sydney to London via Darwin.
While the national carrier has flown hundreds of Federal Government repatriation flights during the COVID-19 pandemic, and operated under a temporary border bubble arrangement with New Zealand earlier this year, these are the first regular Qantas international passenger flights after the Australian and NSW governments relaxed restrictions on overseas travel.
The NSW Government has removed quarantine requirements and caps for overseas arrivals who the Commonwealth Government recognises as fully vaccinated with a TGA-approved vaccine.
Fully vaccinated travellers already in quarantine will also complete their quarantine requirements on November 1, even if it is less than 14 days.
Overseas travellers who are not fully vaccinated must undergo managed 14-day hotel quarantine, and the cap will remain at 210 people per week. However, there will be exemptions for children aged under 12, or 12-17 year old travelling to Australia with their family or guardian or who have an exemption.
Parents of Australian citizens and permanent residents can also travel to Australia from today, with applications made through the Department of Home Affairs Travel Exemption Portal.
"International travel may be a little different for a while with some new requirements and guidelines in place, but one thing that hasn’t changed is Qantas’ commitments to safety and premium service. We are absolutely thrilled to welcome everyone back on board," Joyce says.
"Today is a day many people have been waiting for and our high vaccination rates have allowed us to re-open in a safe and considered way," says NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet.
"Families and friends across NSW can now get together as well look forward to welcoming back home Australians who have been overseas trying to get home."
As of today, 87.7 per cent of the NSW population aged 16 and over have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, while even regional NSW is outpacing all other states and territories with 82 per cent of its population fully vaccinated.
In contrast, 80.3 per cent of Victorians are double-vaccinated and just 63.9 per cent of Queenslanders have received two doses.
Way ahead of other parts of the country, NSW's vaccination rates have given authorities the confidence to allow for more intrastate travel, which Deputy Premier Paul Toole says will provide a huge boost to the state.
"Today is a great day for regional NSW. I know Sydneysiders are busting to head to the bush and we can’t wait to welcome them back with open arms and for families and friends to get the chance to reunite," the Deputy Premier says.
"Around 82 per cent of the population in regional NSW has now been fully vaccinated - this an exceptional result and I want to thank every single person who has rolled up their sleeves so travel can resume and businesses can start to bounce back."
Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres says it is time for Sydney to regain its title as the gateway to the nation with Australians coming home in time for Christmas.
"NSW is again open for business. People can come together in a safe way whether it be returning home from overseas or getting together for an end-of-year gathering at your favourite venue," Ayres says.
More than $530 million has been invested in reviving events across the state and getting tourism back on track as part of the NSW Government’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said NSW was leading Australia out of the pandemic, with the state close to now reaching the 90 per cent double-dose vaccination rate.
“The people of NSW can be proud of our vaccination rate, and there’s no reason we can’t reach 95 per cent double-dose vaccination to help ensure we get on top of this pandemic,” Mr Hazzard said.
“NSW can be one of the highest vaccinated jurisdictions in the world.”
NSW residents across the state will still need to comply with COVID-Safe check-ins and provide proof of vaccination to staff in most settings.
Updated at 10:59am AEDT on 1 November 2021.
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