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‘We want people back’: NSW to scrap quarantine for international travellers

INTERNATIONAL TRAVELLERS
New South Wales will no longer require fully vaccinated international travellers to quarantine from November 1. Source: Saeed Khan/AFP

New South Wales is scrapping home and hotel quarantine for fully vaccinated international travellers from November 1, said NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet on Friday. From that date, individuals will only be required to take a COVID-19 test before boarding a flight and show proof of full vaccination, reported The Sydney Morning Herald. 

Despite the announcement, government sources were quoted saying by news.com.au that they were “surprised” by the speed of the announcement. Perrottet had reportedly alerted the Morrison government to the looming announcement, with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison noting that it was the Commonwealth that controlled tourism visas and decided who comes to Australia.

Australia’s borders have been closed for the last 19 months to international travellers to prevent the spread of COVID-19, leading critics to dub the country a “hermit state.” “For double-vaccinated people around the world, Sydney, New South Wales, is open for business,”  Perrottet was quoted saying by The Sydney Morning Herald. “We want people back. We are leading the nation out of the pandemic. Hotel quarantine will be a thing of the past. This is a significant day for our state.”

From November 1, there will be no caps on overseas arrivals of people who have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine recognised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Currently, Australia recognises Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Sinovac and Covishield for international travellers.

The New South Wales government said in a media release that overseas arrivals who are not fully vaccinated will be capped at 210 people per week, and will be required to undergo mandatory 14-days hotel quarantine. They add that New South Wales is expected to hit its 80% double-dose vaccination target by the weekend. When the state gets to 80% double vaccination, restrictions will be eased further. The rest of the country will need more time to reach that level, reported Reuters.

international travellers

A small number of international students will be able to return to New South Wales in December. Source: Steven Saphore/AFP

International travellers in New South Wales: What to know 

Currently, anyone who enters Australia — including international travellers — has to qualify for an exemption to travel and must pay thousands of dollars to quarantine in a hotel room for 14 days. Under a national post-pandemic road map, borders were to gradually reopen in November, with only Australians and permanent residents allowed in with mandatory home quarantine.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously said after Australians, the next priority would be skilled migrants and international students. Australia isn’t scheduled to welcome tourists until 2022. He did not specify when those groups would be allowed in, but was quoted saying: “We will get to international visitors as well, I believe next year.”

The New South Wales government recently announced a pilot plan to facilitate the return of some 500 international students from December 2021. All participating students will be required to be fully vaccinated with a TGA-recognised COVID-19 vaccination before landing in Sydney, while strict quarantine protocols will be in place.

Additional reporting by AFP.