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Covid-19 News Updates


Queensland vaccine mandates extended, home quarantine rules to relax

Queensland vaccine mandates extended, home quarantine rules to relax

Unvaccinated Queenslanders will not be able to work in private healthcare positions across the state, while home quarantine is also set to become more accessible after the Palaszczuk Government announced new changes to COVID-19 restrictions today.

COVID-19 vaccinations will be mandatory by 15 December for all private healthcare staff across the state, including those working in hospitals, aged care and disability services.

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D’Ath today announced the Workers in a Healthcare Setting (COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements) Direction to ensure more protection for vulnerable Queenslanders.

“Under this Direction, everyone working in healthcare must be vaccinated by 15 December, including private health workers,” Minister D’Ath said.

“We’ve already mandated the jab for Queensland Health staff and now we’re applying the same set of rules for private sector healthcare workers

“It’s critical that all health workers, including students and volunteers, are protected. They face a high infection risk, especially clinicians on the frontline.”

The Direction extends to health professionals, contractors, independent third party providers, and employees or volunteers engaged by external agencies.

It applies to a vast range of healthcare settings including private hospitals, day surgeries, GP clinics, pharmacies, optometrists, private nurse offices, allied health clinics, dental surgeries, and private pathology centres.

The Direction also applies to in-home aged care, many disability support services, and not-for-profit and NGOs providing public healthcare services.


Related story: QLD Health outlines vaccination check requirements for businesses


Home quarantine rules to be relaxed

In good news for those looking to return to Queensland, the state will soon reduce the number of hurdles for those wishing to home quarantine.

Minister D’Ath said the success of a recent home quarantine trial had prompted the decision to allow more people to enter this way, with new rules coming into effect once the 70 per cent double-dose vaccination mark is reached.

“We evaluated the trial and it was very successful and safe,” D’Ath said.

“More than 1,000 people in eight local government areas in south-east Queensland took part in the trial and their feedback has been very positive.

“This trial has helped shape a new approach to home quarantine that will make the process more comfortable and accessible for all returning Queenslanders, not just those in the south-east. This policy will apply to eligible domestic travellers also.”

As of this morning 67.84 per cent of eligible Queenslanders had received two doses, meaning the changes are likely just days away from coming into effect.

“You will be able to quarantine at any self-contained dwelling, as long as it has no shared common areas that are accessible by people outside the household,” D’Ath said.

“This may include a standalone house or a unit, townhouse or duplex that has its own entrance.

“You will be able to arrive at any Queensland airport, but you can only transit to another destination if you transit through Brisbane. You can then drive to your home quarantine residents, as long as its within two hours without stopping. You can travel by either private car, a hire car with contactless pick-up, or an endorsed transport provider.”

People wanting to home quarantine must still:

  • be fully vaccinated (they must have had two doses of the vaccine, with at least two weeks between their second shot and their entry into Queensland)
  • have returned a negative COVID-19 test no more than 72 hours prior to entry
  • ensure anyone else residing in the household also quarantines
  • use the home quarantine check-in service
  • maintain contact records for anyone attending the property and
  • get a PCR test at a drive-through clinic, using a private vehicle, on days 1, 5 and 12.

The changes come after QLD today reported three new locally acquired cases of COVID-19, of which one tested positive in hotel quarantine.

The other two were infectious in the community and include a man on the Gold Coast and a person in Warwick.

Updated at 3:16pm AEST on 10 November 2021.

QLD Health outlines vaccination check requirements for businesses

QLD Health outlines vaccination check requirements for businesses

While Queenslanders will soon be able to live mask-free in most places, the state's health authorities have today released a list of new requirements for non-essential businesses around vaccination requirements and verification for entry.

"From 17 December when Queensland is forecast to reach the 80 per cent double vaccinated milestone, hospitality and entertainment venues including festivals will only be permitted to allow entry to patrons and staff who are fully vaccinated," Queensland Health stated in an update this afternoon.

"This affects non-essential leisure businesses including hospitality venues (hotels, pubs, clubs, taverns, bars, restaurants and cafes) and entertainment venues (nightclubs, live music venues, stadiums, theatres, cinemas and festivals) that will no longer need to operate under COVID-19 density limits."

From 17 December these businesses will be asked to: 

  • display the vaccination rules at the business premises
  • ask for evidence of vaccination from customers at the time of check-in
  • if a customer cannot or refuses to provide evidence, ask the person to leave the premises
  • if the person refuses to the leave the premises, call the police.

Unvaccinated people will still be free to access essential businesses, including grocery stores. 

Weddings and private hire venues will be capped at 20 people or one person per 4 square metres if any unvaccinated people are among the guests (including the wedding party), staff or officials.

From 19 November people will be able to link their vaccination certificate into the Check In Qld app. Customers and staff will continue to use the app to assist with prompt contact tracing.

Updated at 4pm AEST on 9 November 2021.

QLD on the verge of lifting mask mandate, Darwin lockout to end at midnight

QLD on the verge of lifting mask mandate, Darwin lockout to end at midnight

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced today that face masks can be put away once 80 per cent of the state has received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine and that more freedoms will be available when people are fully vaccinated. 

Exceptions would remain in airports and planes, where a federal mask mandate is in place.

With 79.6 per cent of the state's population having received one jab as of yesterday afternoon, the Premier said it would be safe for schools, cafes, pubs, clubs, hairdressers and workplaces to go mask-free soon.

"This is another small step back towards life as normal,” the Premier said.

“Queenslanders have done an incredible job all through the pandemic and this is their reward.

“The more of us who are vaccinated, the faster we return to life the way it used to be.”

Masks are strongly recommended on public transport and other areas where social distancing cannot occur across Queensland. 

“We have no community cases and therefore no need to wear masks in most settings,” said Health Minister Yvette D’Ath.

“But we shouldn’t throw them away.”

“Masks have been an excellent defence against the spread of COVID and it’s more than likely we will need them again.”

Vaccinated Queenslanders to be rewarded before Christmas

Vaccinated Queenslanders aged 16 or older will be rewarded with a return to normal life on December 17 or once the State hits 80 per cent of eligible citizens being fully vaccinated.

From that date stadiums, venues and festivals will only be open to attendees that are fully vaccinated, with police enforcing the requirements.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said these measures are a reward for vaccinated Queenslanders.

“This pandemic has been a long, hard road,” Palaszczuk said.

“Soon our borders will open and COVID will be in our communities.”

“This is about keeping our freedoms.”

Visitors to aged care, hospitals, prisons and disability services will be required to be vaccinated except in end-of-life cases, childbirth or emergencies.

The first fully vaccinated event will be the Brisbane Heat v Sydney Thunder Big Bash League match at the Gabba on 19 December.

Tourism and Sport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said making sure spectators were fully vaccinated was critical to keeping all Queenslanders safe from COVID-19.

“If you want to see sporting spectacles like the BBL or State of Origin, you need to be vaccinated,” Hinchliffe said.

“Without double vaccination you won’t make it past the Gabba turnstiles from 17 December onwards.”

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said COVID-safe quarantine plans have already been developed with Queensland Health for the England and Australian cricket teams for the first test on 8 December.

“Then the game changes again for all sports and concerts from 17 December,” said D’Ath.

“Together as Queenslanders we are facing down the virus and building towards a brighter future.”

Greater Darwin to lift lockout from midnight 

The lockout for Greater Darwin will lift at 11:59pm tonight after it was extended by 24 hours due to a new public exposure site being identified at Noonamah Tavern.

Katherine, which was lifted from lockdown yesterday at 5pm, has put a mask mandate in place until 5pm on 12 November.  

The below areas remain in lockout until midnight:

  • City of Darwin
  • City of Palmerston
  • Litchfield Council
  • Wagait Shire
  • Belyuen Shire
  • Dundee
  • Bynoe
  • Charlotte
  • Cox Peninsula

Updated at 9:06am AEST on 9 November 2021.

WA roadmap projects early 2022 reopening at 90 per cent double-vaccination milestone

WA roadmap projects early 2022 reopening at 90 per cent double-vaccination milestone

More than 250,000 unvaccinated Western Australians have been urged to roll up their sleeves to get the jab after Premier Mark McGowan unveiled the state's roadmap to reopening today, with plans to ease border restrictions once 90 per cent of the population aged 12 and over is double-dose vaccinated.

The Premier said modelling indicated that milestone would likely be hit in late January or early February 2022, although there is potential for the threshold to be met earlier or later depending on vaccination rates.

"Once we hit 80 per cent and then set the specific date for transition, that date will be locked in to provide everyone with the certainty they need to plan ahead and be prepared for the next stage of this pandemic," McGowan said, noting this announcement would likely be made in December.

"As far as world standards go a rate of 90 per cent will be an amazing achievement, but I've always believed we can strive high and get the best result for our state, and given the current vaccination rate these targets are realistic and within our sights.

"It is a statewide vaccination rate, however if there are there are regional areas that don't have a high enough vaccination rates, then pending health advice at that time, intrastate borders to protect those specific regions may need to be introduced."

He noted the modelling indicated the decision to open up at a 90 per cent rather than 80 per cent rate would likely save 200 lives.

Once the transition begins, face masks will be required in high-risk indoor settings including public transport, hospitals and aged care facilities, while proof of vaccination will be required to attend nightclubs, the casino and large events with crowds of more than 1,000 people.

"Contact registers and the use of SafeWA will still be required at all public venues, as will revised COVID event and safety plans, and entry will be restricted to emote Aboriginal communities where necessary," the Premier said.

"These safeguards will complement our vaccination rollout. They will be interim, they won't last forever, but they will put us in the best position in case of an outbreak."

At that date travel will be permitted from all jurisdictions across Australia with double-dose vaccination requirements for arrivals from interstate, as well as the need to return a negative PCR test 72 hours prior to departure and take another test within 48 hours of arrival.

"International arrivals won't be subject to quarantine if they're double-dose vaccinated, but international arrivals who are not double-dose vaccinated will be required to complete 14 days of quarantine in a designated facility.

"I understand there will be disappointment for some. I acknowledge some people will be frustrated - they may not be able to be reunited with family from New South Wales or Victoria over Christmas.

"I know what that feels like. I understand. I won't be able to see my parents and my brother until the transition in late January or early February, but as difficult as it is, it is for the right reasons."

WA Health Minister Roger Cook emphasised younger people in particular would play an important part in reaching that goal, as currently less than 60 per cent of 30-somethings were fully vaccinated and only 45 per cent of those in their 20s had received two doses.

"Tell your friends, tell your mates, tell your brother, tell your sister - go and get vaccinated now. Do you really want your lifestyle to be cramped just because you couldn't bother to get vaccinated? Of course you don't, so don't hold everyone back," he said.

"We need two million Western Australians double dose vaccinated to reach 90 per cent, and at the moment 1.75 million have had one dose, and 1.4 million have had two doses, so we need 250,000 to get their first dose, and 600,000 more two doses."

Updated at 10:25am AWST on 5 November 2021.

 

 

NSW and VIC reopen borders to each other, Darwin in lockout, Katherine in lockdown

NSW and VIC reopen borders to each other, Darwin in lockout, Katherine in lockdown

Free travel between Australia’s two biggest states is now permitted after border restrictions between New South Wales and Victoria were eased overnight, well ahead of the busy Christmas travel period.

Meanwhile, a positive case of community transmission in the Northern Territory has sent Greater Darwin into a 72-hour ‘lockout’ and Katherine into a three-day lockdown as of midnight last night.

In a joint statement between NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and VIC Premier Daniel Andrews, the two have agreed to open borders because of high vaccination rates in both states.

Victoria’s Acting Chief Health Officer declared yesterday that from 11.59pm last night the ACT and all remaining orange zones in New South Wales would become green zones under VIC’s travel permit system.

This means, for the first time in more than six months, all local government areas (LGAs) in all states and territories across Australia will be green zones for the purpose of entering Victoria.

Travellers, including workers, who are entering Victoria from a green zone face no testing or quarantine requirements, but are still required to obtain a permit from Service Victoria before they arrive, to verify they aren’t COVID-19 positive or required to isolate as a close contact.

There are no requirements for fully vaccinated Victorians entering New South Wales unless they have been to a place of high concern in Victoria. A Victorian who is older than 16 and not fully vaccinated is not allowed to enter NSW for recreation or a holiday.

This comes as 93.8 per cent of people in NSW aged 16 and over have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 89.1 per cent have received both doses.

In Victoria 92.7 per cent of people aged 16 and over have now had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 82.5 per cent have had two doses.

“NSW is set to pass 90 per cent double dose vaccination in the near future, with Victoria not far behind, allowing family and friends to be reunited in the lead up to Christmas after many months of being separated,” Perrottet said.

“This milestone has only been made possible because people across NSW and Victoria have rolled up their sleeves and led the nation on the road back to normality thanks to our high vaccination rates.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews thanked people on both sides of the border for rolling up their sleeves and getting the jab.

“Thanks to the incredibly hard work of Victorians and people in New South Wales in getting vaccinated, we’re delighted to be able to have free travel between the two states once again,” Andrews said.

“Victoria and New South Wales have been through so much over the last few months, and we’re pleased that more families will now be able to reunite just in time for Christmas and the holiday season.”

The Victorian Chamber and Business NSW have united to welcome the joint announcement that Australia’s two most populous states will allow free travel between them.

“NSW and Victoria have led the way for Australia with the highest vaccination rates in the world which has now enabled us to live with COVID-19," Business NSW chief executive Daniel Hunter said.

“The effort that New South Wales and Victorian residents have made has been truly outstanding, and we are now able to reignite the two strongest economies and fast-track Australia’s economic recovery. 

“We are thankful for the collaboration between our State Governments to enable this to happen. We can now safely and securely plan interstate business trips, family reunions and holidays, and look forward to a wonderful Christmas period.”

Victorian Chamber chief executive Paul Guerra also welcomed the changes, saying it will help "turbocharge" the economies of both NSW and Victoria.

"Now that we are able to finally close this chapter, we should embrace the lessons learned and continue with this strong state collaboration so that we can drive the nation’s economic recovery," Guerra said.

“We can now all look forward to a wonderful summer, Christmas and New Years celebrations with family and friends, and a successful 2022 as a nation whole again.”

Single COVID case sparks NT lockdown

A positive case of community transmission in the Northern Territory - the first ever recorded in the Top End - has forced the Territory government to put Greater Darwin in ‘lockout’ and Katherine into lockdown for three days.

Effective midnight last night, the city of Katherine including Tindal will enter into a full lockdown for 72 hours.

Because of high vaccination rates in the Greater Darwin region, the below areas will enter into a ‘lockout’ for 72 hours. This means fully-vaccinated people will be able to continue to live life as normal within the following LGAs:

  • City of Darwin
  • City of Palmerston
  • Litchfield Council
  • Wagait Shire
  • Belyuen Shire
  • Dundee
  • Bynoe
  • Charlotte
  • Cox Peninsula

Unvaccinated residents, including those people who have received only their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, must stay at home for the 72 hour lockout period and are only permitted to leave for the following four reasons:

  1. Medical treatment, including COVID testing or vaccination
  2. For essential goods and services, like groceries and medications
  3. For one hour of outdoor exercise a day within 5 km from your home with one other person or people from your house
  4. To provide care and support to a family member or person who cannot support themselves.

Unvaccinated people are not able to leave the Greater Darwin Region or attend their workplace, even if they are an essential worker.

The lockdown and lockout follows confirmation of a positive COVID-19 case - a man in his 20’s who is an NT resident and lives between Humpty Doo and Katherine where he works at the RAAF Tindal Base.

He is unvaccinated and is being transported by CareFlight to the Centre of National Resilience tonight. It is not known where he contracted COVID-19. Wastewater testing is negative at this time.

The man was tested for COVID-19 on 3 November 2021 and returned a positive test tonight. He was infectious in the community between 31 October 2021 and 3 November 2021. Contact tracing is underway and the man’s household contacts in both Darwin and Katherine are isolating at home.

The man visited various locations in Darwin and Katherine during his infectious period. The exposure site locations are available at coronavirus.nt.gov.au.

Updated at 9.28am AEDT on 5 November 2021.

Three new COVID cases detected in Goondiwindi, QLD

Three new COVID cases detected in Goondiwindi, QLD

Queensland has today recorded three new cases of COVID-19, all in the border town of Goondiwindi, but no lockdown will be ordered because of the town’s high rate of vaccination.

The three cases are all in the process of being transferred to a COVID hospital, and the cluster is linked to a New South Wales resident who was in Goondiwindi for one day doing essential shopping.

Two of the new local cases are unvaccinated and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has urged Goondiwindi residents to get tested if displaying COVID symptoms.

Of the three cases, one is a contact of a known cluster and is not of concern to QLD health officials.

The second has been in the community while infectious for five days and all household contacts have tested negative, while the third has been in the community for four days.

"We don't have to lock Goondiwindi down," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said, noting this latest outbreak is a wake-up call for the state.

"You can have a very, very high vaccination rate and this virus will hunt you down.”

The Premier also used the press conference to remind Queenslanders to get vaccinated as soon as possible before the state’s border reopens to NSW and Victoria.

In particular, those on the Gold Coast were urged to lift low rates of vaccination in the city, especially considering that 90 per cent of vehicles that cross into QLD travel through the Gold Coast.

Updated at 11.28am AEDT on 4 November 2021.

NSW brings forward major easing of restrictions to next Monday

NSW brings forward major easing of restrictions to next Monday

Some major changes to the New South Wales’ COVID-19 roadmap will be brought forward by nearly one month as the state hits vaccine milestones at a blistering pace, with eased restrictions to come into effect for vaccinated people from Monday 8 November.

The changes, which include the lifting of capacity limits, the introduction of the one person per two square metre rule for all settings, and full stadiums for major events will come into force from 8 November.

This is well ahead of the planned 1 December date previously pencilled in for these changes.

At the same time, the state government has decided to push back the easing of restrictions for those who are not fully vaccinated until 15 December, in line with when it is expected 95 per cent of the eligible population will have received two doses of a COVID-19 jab.

Currently, 87.7 per cent of the state’s eligible population aged 16 and older are fully vaccinated, with the state tipped to reach 90 per cent fully vaccinated mark this coming Sunday.

“We want to get to a point where New South Wales is open, one and free, and we believe that the changes we’ve made today will enable that to occur,” New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said.

“This is a long journey. Our challenges still lie ahead, but our success as a state and being able to open up safely is a testament to everybody in New South Wales who have gone out and made the effort to get vaccinated.”

As such, from 8 November restrictions will ease for fully vaccinated people in NSW including:

  • Density limits will shift to one person per two square meters across the board
  • Capacity limits will be lifted for all settings except for gym classes which will stay at 20 people per class
  • Visitors to homes will be uncapped
  • Outdoor gatherings can increase, but gatherings of more than 1,000 will need a COVID Safe plan in place
  • Indoor pools can reopen for all purposes
  • Amusement parks and play centres can reopen
  • Major events and stadiums can have 100 per cent capacity
  • Despite the changes, indoor mask wearing will still be mandatory until 15 December.

“I really extend my appreciation to the community for understanding that this is a really important risk mitigation strategy for indoor settings,” NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said.

The news comes as NSW recorded 173 new COVID-19 cases overnight and four deaths attributed to the coronavirus.

Updated at 11.06am AEDT on 2 November 2021.

Australia to allow quarantine-free travel to Singaporeans this month

Australia to allow quarantine-free travel to Singaporeans this month

In three weeks' time Singapore will join New Zealand as part of an exclusive club of countries whose citizens are allowed to travel to Australia without spending two weeks in quarantine on arrival.

However, where exactly they can do so will depend on the decisions of states and territories, with New South Wales and Victoria announced as the first jurisdictions to participate in the new travel bubble.

New quarantine-free arrangements will commence on November 21 for fully vaccinated Singaporeans travelling from the city state who present a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure, and they need not have spent the fortnight prior in Singapore itself to be eligible

The news follows Singapore's decision to allow Australia into its Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme from 8 November, and was announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Rome after a meeting with his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong.

"Australia is slinging its doors open to fully vaccinated Singaporean travellers in November,” the Prime Minister said.

“This is another significant milestone in our step by step approach to safely reopening to the world that we outlined in the National Plan.

"It follows the announcement this week that fully vaccinated travellers from New Zealand will be welcomed back in October."

The PM emphasised this meant within weeks Australia would be welcoming tourists from two of our top 10 travel destinations.

"This is the billion dollar boost that Australia’s tourism industry has been waiting for," he said.

"Step by step, everything that we know and love about Australia is inching back to normal."

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, Senator Marise Payne, highlighted many Australians live and work in Singapore, and vice versa.

"The strong exchanges over many decades have been to the benefit of both our nations,” Minister Payne said.

"It attests to the strength of our friendship and the effective management of COVID in each of our countries that we have been able to agree this early step in the reopening of normal travel.

"As we continue with our shared regional recovery from the pandemic, the resumption of travel between Singapore and Australia will provide great opportunities to move forward.”

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan said this was the next logical step in reopening to the world.

“Australia remains a popular, world-leading destination and this is just the start of our international tourism comeback,” Minister Tehan said.

“Australia’s tourism operators and the sector’s 660,000 workers will welcome back with open arms visitors from Singapore.

“Quarantine-free arrivals demonstrate the success of our National Plan and the strength of our recovery.”

The Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) has welcomed the news Singaporean tourists will be able to visit quarantine-free, as well as the fact the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has recognised more vaccines - Covaxin (India) and Sinopharm (China).

"Our industry has been waiting for this announcement for 20 long months and there will be a great deal of relief felt today as export tourism businesses start to see the signs of returning international visitors,” ATEC managing director Peter Shelley said.  

"Thousands of Australian tourism businesses have been waiting patiently for our borders to open to welcome back international guests and this announcement will provide some energy for those businesses.  

"Despite much talk of ‘pivoting to domestic travel’ the reality is both our domestic and internationally focused tourism businesses have suffered heavily with both state and international border closures."

Shelley noted Singaporeans spent more than $1 billion in Australia in 2019.

"And we remain a strongly desirable destination and with proximity and motivation on our side, we hope this market will offer strong opportunities," he said.

"Along with thousands of tourism operators and all the hundreds of thousands of businesses who rely on the international tourism revenue they generate, we welcome this announcement and look forward to the expansion of this travel list in the near future."

According to World Atlas, Singapore was the sixth largest source of international tourists in Australia in 2019 with 407,000 visitors.

Australia's combined trade in goods with Singapore in 2020 was worth more than US$10.6 billion (AUD$14.1 billion), according to data from Trade Map based on ABS and UN Comtrade statistics.

Updated at 5:10pm AEDT on 1 November 2021.

Australia welcomes back New Zealanders as one-way bubble reopens

Australia welcomes back New Zealanders as one-way bubble reopens

As NSW welcomes back international arrivals for citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family members, Australia has also reopened the quarantine-free travel bubble with New Zealand.

The allowance only goes one way however, and was put into effect by the Federal Chief Health Officer t last night at 11:59pm for all Australian jurisdictions that are willing to adopt the setting.

All travellers are subject to the following pre-departure measures:

  • Proof of a negative pre-departure PCR test within 3 days of the departure flight to Australia, and a completed declaration to this effect; and
  • Evidence of full vaccination against COVID-19 consistent with the ATAGI definition of fully vaccinated with a TGA approved or recognised vaccine.

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan says the resumption of quarantine-free arrivals from New Zealand would be a major boost for tourism and confidence.

"In 2019, Australia hosted 1.434 million visitors from New Zealand – making it our second largest source market – and they spent $1.6 billion in the Australian economy supporting local jobs and businesses,” says Minister Tehan.

"Australia delivers what Kiwis want in a holiday, including safety and security, value for money and world class natural beauty and wildlife.

"Tourism Australia will look to scale up its marketing activities in New Zealand, with an immediate focus on building confidence and broadening knowledge of the depth of Australia’s tourism offering."

In October the Australian Passport Officer received more than 102,000 passport applications, an average of more than 5,000 every work day compared to 82,000 applications in September and 53,000 applications in August.

There has also been strong demand for the new International COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate, with more than 717,500 certificates generated since it was launched on 19 October.

Updated at 11:10am AEDT on 1 November 2021.

First quarantine-free international arrivals in Sydney as NSW hits roadmap milestone

First quarantine-free international arrivals in Sydney as NSW hits roadmap milestone

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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