Sydney will end its COVID-19 quarantine for fully vaccinated international travelers from 1 November, New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrott said on Friday, foreshadowing a full return of foreign travel after more than 19 months .
Australia closed its international borders in March 2020 in response to the pandemic, allowing entry only to citizens and permanent residents, who are required to undergo a mandatory two-week hotel quarantine at their own expense.
“We want the people back, we are leading the country through the pandemic. We are opening Sydney and New South Wales to the world,” Perrott told reporters in the state capital Sydney.
The federal government’s reopening plan, unveiled in July, proposes a gradual reopening of international travel with safe countries to return vaccinated Australians, when the absolute vaccination rate reached 80%.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office was not immediately available to comment on the New South Wales plan.
New South Wales is expected to reach the 80% full vaccination level in the adult population this weekend, while the rest of the country will take at least a few weeks to reach that level.
The move to open borders comes as daily infections in New South Wales rose by 406 to 399 on Thursday, down from the state’s pandemic high of 1,599 in early September.
Neighboring Victoria state reported 2,179 new locally acquired cases, the majority in Melbourne, down from a record 2,297 a day earlier.
Australia had been virus-free for most of this year, until a third wave of infections from its delta variant spread to the southeast from late June forcing a month-long lockdown in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.
The country’s total coronavirus numbers are still relatively low, with some 139,000 cases and 1,506 deaths.