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Australia reopens to visa holders as swathe of restrictions ease

Australia has reopened its borders to skilled workers and international students, as restrictions continue to ease across the country.

A swathe of COVID-19 restrictions were lifted today with Tasmania opening its borders, Victoria easing vaccine requirements, quarantine requirements for Southern African travellers have been removed and unvaccinated people will now have the same freedoms in NSW as vaccinated people.

First off, Australia’s border is now open to visa holders after almost two years, allowing skilled workers and international students to enter the country without an exemption.

Restrictions on visa holders were supposed to lift on 1 December, but the government placed a pause on the change due to concerns over the Omicron variant.

This resumption also signals the first stages of Australia’s travel bubble with Japan and South Korea. 

In NSW, all international arrivals will be subject to the same requirements from today, with the state lifting requirements for fully vaccinated travellers from eight southern African countries to enter 14 days hotel quarantine.

Victorian officials announced they would lift the requirements on Monday.

Previously, all travellers arriving in NSW who had been in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, Malawi, during the 14-day period before their arrival in NSW were required to enter hotel quarantine for 14 days, irrespective of their vaccination status in response to fears over the Omicron variant.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said all fully vaccinated international arrivals must still self-isolate for 72-hours and present a negative result from a test taken within the first 24 hours of arrival, avoid high-risk settings for seven days and have a PCR test both within 24 hours of arrival and on day six.

“NSW Health also strongly encourages all international arrivals to have another test 12 days after arrival,” Dr Chant said.

“With the festive season upon us and people starting to gather in larger numbers, I urge everyone to maintain their vigilance and to continue to come forward for testing with even the slightest symptoms and to follow the public health advice.”

The state also lifted restrictions for unvaccinated people today, allowing them the same freedoms as vaccinated people, as well as scrapping capacity limits for gatherings at home, on outdoor gatherings and in hospitality venues; and dropping mask mandates for most indoor settings.

Masks will still be required on public transport, onboard planes, at airports and for hospitality staff who are not vaccinated.

However, any passengers arriving from overseas aged 18 years and over who are not fully vaccinated will still need to go directly into 14-day mandatory hotel quarantine.

This morning, NSW recorded 1,360 new cases of COVID-19 and brought its total number of Omicron cases to 110.

Yesterday, the state health minister Brad Hazzard urged unvaccinated people to stop being “selfish” and get the jab, according to ABC News.

“For heaven’s sake, go and get your booster,” he said.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall has announced that quarantine periods for international travellers will redice from 14 to seven days effective immediately, after the state recorded 26 new cases this morning, its highest daily total since April 2020, according to ABC News. 

Meanwhile, Victoria’s Health Minister Martin Foley has confirmed the state will lift vaccine requirements in certain settings from midnight tonight as the government replaces its state of emergency powers with the new Public Health and Wellbeing Act.

Those under 18 will no longer need to show proof of vaccine at hospitality venues and mandatory vaccination requirements will be scrapped for retail customers as well as in real estate, places of worship and weddings and funerals.

Tours and transport operators will also no longer have to clean equipment between uses.

Victoria recorded 1,405 new cases today.


Image: Facebook/domperrottetmp



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