The new arrangements mean all Australians, no matter where they live in the country, would be allowed to travel overseas once again from November 1. However, if they wanted to return to a state other than NSW, they would still be subject to the arrival caps and quarantine arrangements of those states.
People who transit through Sydney would still be subject to domestic border rules and restrictions.
Qantas announced it would bring forward its plan to restart international flights by two weeks, to November 1, in response to the NSW announcement.
Australia’s borders have been closed since March last year and, since July last year, a system of caps imposed by the states have restricted the number of Australians allowed into the country, effectively locking out tens of thousands of citizens wanting to return home. There are now 40,000 Australians registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs as trying to get home.
Australian woman Kelsey May has been operating a Facebook support group for thousands of Australians stranded overseas.“There’s understandable scepticism for many people today,” she said.
“By all means, the news from NSW is terrific and extremely relieving and exciting for many – one of which is me, who hasn’t seen my sister in over two years, and my partner in over 18 months – but many are understandably waiting to see how it works.”
Mr Morrison said he did not think the NSW policy would affect the willingness of other state governments to open borders.
“I don’t think there’s any justification for that, particularly as we are only extending this to Australian residents, citizens and their immediate families,” he said.
“I’m sure all premiers and chief ministers want Australians to be able to come home.”
However, WA Premier Mark McGowan said that NSW’s push to open borders to international arrivals could mean greater spread of the virus in NSW and that strict border arrangement would remain in place for “as long as necessary”.
“It is unfortunate … but it is necessary to protect our state and keep us in the very good condition we are in,” he said.
Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the opening of international borders should be an issue for the Commonwealth government and national cabinet.
However, Mr Perrottet said the decision would see NSW reconnect with the rest of the globe as soon as possible, declaring quarantine “a thing of the past” from November 1.
“We’re going to get tourists back as quickly as possible,” he said, acknowledging the decision to open international borders lay with the federal government.
“From a NSW perspective, we’re not going to discriminate. We want people to come back in.”
Under the plan, people who have been double-vaccinated with an approved vaccine will be required to take a COVID-19 test before boarding a flight and show proof of full vaccination.
There will be no caps on fully vaccinated people and no requirements to quarantine. Overseas arrivals who are not fully vaccinated will be capped at 210 a week, and will still need to undergo 14 days’ hotel quarantine.
The NSW government first announced its home quarantine trial in September, saying participants would include residents, non-Australian residents and Qantas aircrew. It would run for four weeks with an option to scale up, if successful.
Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres, who has been responsible for quarantine in NSW, on Friday said while Qantas crew members commenced the program two weeks ago, community participants had started only this week.
NSW Health this week said it was selecting a broad range of participants “who had previously submitted an application for exemption to hotel quarantine”, along with international air crew and non-Australian citizens, to ensure the program could be tested under varying circumstances.
“They will be required to regularly sign onto an app that will geolocate their whereabouts and submit to a COVID test on day six and day 14,” a spokesman said.
Mr Ayres said results so far had been critical in convincing the government against rolling out a statewide program, with reluctance to devote state resources to operate a complex monitoring system within a highly vaccinated population.
He said that, while the government will still complete the trial, it did not need to see the full results to know that it could not scale up as required.
The Prime Minister on Friday said he would continue to support home quarantine trials under way in other states and territories.
Under current international arrivals caps, which were lowered during the Delta outbreak, 750 people are allowed to return to NSW each week until the state hits its 80 per cent target.
From October 19, fully vaccinated NSW residents will be able to enter Victoria without undergoing a 14-day quarantine period. Under the new rules, vaccinated travellers who enter Victoria must return a negative test no more than 72 hours before entry and must get tested and isolate until they return a negative result.
With NSW set to hit the 80 per cent double vaccination rate over the weekend, restrictions on visitors to homes, outdoor gatherings, rules for hospitality venues and caps for weddings and funerals will all be eased from Monday for fully vaccinated people.
Those who are double-jabbed will be able to have 20 visitors to their homes from Monday, up from the current limit of 10, and the cap on outdoor gatherings will increase from 30 to 50.
Caps on funerals and weddings will be removed and drinking while standing up will be allowed in hospitality venues.
However, allowing Sydney residents the ability to travel to the regions, originally permitted under the road map when NSW hit the 80 per cent mark, has been delayed until November 1 with vaccination rates in some parts of the state still too low.
Mr Perrottet said discussions were now under way with the federal government about when cruises could start operating again.
The state recorded 399 new local cases of COVID-19 and four deaths on Friday. There are now 677 coronavirus patients in NSW hospitals, with 145 in intensive care.
with Katina Curtis and Latika Bourke
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