The NSW government has announced that fully-vaccinated international travellers will be welcomed into the state from 1 November, without having to quarantine in hotels or at home.
In announcing the major policy change at a press conference this morning, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said the state’s residents will “be travelling to Bali before Broome”, and that the NSW government will work closely with the Commonwealth “to ensure protections are in place so we keep people safe [as we] rejoin the world”.
“We can’t live here in hermit kingdom. So many businesses [here] rely on tourism for business and trade,” he said, according to ABC News.
Any travellers who aren’t fully vaxxed will still have to complete hotel quarantine; however, only 210 spots will be available each week, according to ABC News.
Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres said the reopening date of 1 November will allow airlines time to add extra flights to NSW.
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic got serious in March last year, all states and territories have only let overseas passengers in if they complete a 14-day stint in hotel quarantine, paid for out of their own pockets.
Former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a home quarantine trial for eligible international arrivals last month, but Perrottet wasted no time looking for ways to fast-track it when he took over the state’s top job, and has now decided to scrap the hotel quarantine plan altogether.
The big policy change means that NSW is the only Aussie state to announce quarantine-free international travel, despite all of its interstate borders remaining closed.
Melissa Elf, general manager of travel management company FCM in Australia, said Sydney was the economy’s beating heart in Australia, and not having to quarantine on arrival would mean the world to businesses.
“Having to quarantine for any period of time when travelling from overseas for business has been a big obstacle for companies wanting to do deals with Australia, and I commend NSW for taking the lead on opening us to the world. Australia is open for business once again,” she said.
“Intrastate travel has been incredibly strong for businesses throughout the pandemic, especially in Queensland and Western Australia, but this announcement will give global business the confidence to fly into Sydney without the hindrance of any form of quarantine.”
The Transport Workers Union (TWU) said the clock is ticking for the federal government to introduce rapid testing in aviation, following the NSW government’s latest reopening announcement.
TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said aviation workers were desperate to get back to work after 20 months of debilitating shutdowns and stand-downs, but every measure needed to be taken to keep the industry safe.
“After the worst year in the industry’s history, we all want to see international flights resume, but scrapping quarantine requirements without a plan to COVID-safe the industry isn’t learning to live with the virus; it’s reckless,” he said.
“Rapid testing must be rolled out industry-wide to reduce the risk of transmission and keep planes in the sky.
After over a year without work and with little support from the federal government, the last thing aviation workers need is for domestic transmission linked to international arrivals to shut the network down again.
“The Prime Minister must commit to government-funded rapid testing across the network immediately. We cannot see a repeat of the national vaccine rollout shambles where action was finally taken when it was too late. Scott Morrison needs to act on this today.”
At the same press conference, the NSW Premier announced that regional travel for Greater Sydneysiders won’t be permitted until 1 November, despite initially promising the ban to lift once the state hits the 80 per cent vaccination target (which is expected to be reached this weekend).
The date has been pushed back due to concerns by regional mayors over low vaccination rates in their respective areas.
Tourism Accommodation Australia NSW chief executive Michael Johnson said the delay of travel in and out of the regions until 1 November is extremely disappointing to accommodation hotels after months of sitting empty.
“Hotels across regional NSW have taken hundreds of bookings, hired new staff and bought stock based on an announcement the state would open up at 80 per cent double vaccinated,” he said.
“It is also a blow to CBD hotels who have been closed or operating at less than two per cent occupancy, with most staff stood down since June.
“Our members, many of whom have received little to no government support, need certainty. They cannot understand why they now have to cancel much-needed bookings from fully vaccinated guests at the last minute.”
Featured image source: YouTube/ABC News