Sydney to end quarantine for vaccinated travellers

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA (AP) – Sydney will end hotel quarantine for vaccinated passengers when scheduled international flights restart in Australia within two weeks, officials said yesterday, while maintaining some restrictions on foreigners entering the country.

Vaccinated travellers who test negative for COVID-19 before flying to Australia’s largest city would be spared 14 days in hotel quarantine from November 1, New South Wales state Premier Dominic Perrottet said.

The major relaxation of the state’s pandemic restrictions, which makes entering Australia easier for some travellers, was announced four days after Sydney came out of a 106-day lockdown.

“We can’t live here in a hermit kingdom. We’ve got to open up and this decision today is a big one, but it is the right one to get New South Wales connected globally,” Perrottet said.

“It’s going to be great for our tourism industry, it’s going to be great for tourist operators,” he added.

Sydney’s is the first Australian international airport to re-open because News South Wales has the highest vaccination rate of any state.

New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet speaks to the media during a press conference in Sydney. PHOTO: AP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison approved the November 1 travel resumption, but has yet to say when foreign tourists will be welcomed back in Australia. He has ruled out this year.

Australian permanent residents and citizens will be free to travel next month for the first time since the nation’s border was closed in March last year by some of the toughest travel restrictions in the democratic world.

Skilled migrants and students would be given priority in coming to Australia over international tourists. Morrison said yesterday parents of Australians would be reclassified as immediate family, enabling foreign nationals to visit grandchildren born in Australia during the pandemic.

Grandparents previously had to wait until tourists were allowed back to reunite with families. But restrictions on foreigners entering Australia would otherwise not change,
Morrison said.

Qantas Airways responded to the news by bringing forward scheduled international flights by two weeks to November 1. The first flights will operate between Sydney and Los Angeles and Sydney and London.

Limits on hotel rooms available for quarantine have been a major barrier for Australians who want to come home.

It is unclear whether returning Australians will be able to avoid hotel quarantine in other states by landing in Sydney then catching domestic flights across state lines.

The government of Victoria state, which has overtaken neighbouring New South Wales as Australia’s COVID-19 hotspot, is keen to see details of the quarantine changes.