Emotional reunions at Sydney Airport as first quarantine-free flight touches down and Australia’s international borders open up after 590 days
International travellers have embraced their loved ones for the first time in months after the first of the quarantine-free flights touched down at Sydney airport.
Emotional reunions unfolded as the first of the overseas flights arrived at Kingsford Smith Airport before dawn on Monday.
Travellers emerged from the airport gates to run into the arms of their loved ones and embrace family members who had been patiently waiting for them.
It marks the first time in a gruelling 590 days that some families have been reunited after international borders were closed in March 2020.
Under the change to international travel, fully vaccinated passengers won’t have to quarantine in a hotel or at home, paving the way for Australians stranded overseas to be able to come home for Christmas.
International travellers have touched down at Sydney airport as the border to NSW re-opens in a landmark day for the state’s COVID-19 response
The first overseas flight touched down at Kingsford Smith Airport before dawn on Monday
Meanwhile, fully jabbed people in NSW can from Monday start travelling freely between Greater Sydney and the regions.
The lifting of intrastate travel restrictions will allow families to reunite for the first time in months and marks the return of regional tourism.
‘For the first time in a long time, grandparents will be able to visit grandkids … many people will be reunited,’ Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Sunday.
He’s confident it’s a safe time to allow Sydneysiders back into the rest of the state, with double dose vaccination coverage now nearing 88 per cent.
The border opening is estimated to bring a $1billion a week surge in consumer spending.
As of Saturday, 83.6 per cent of eligible NSW residents aged years and over 16 had received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine and 87.7 per cent were fully vaccinated.
Monday will also see the state’s vaccine booster program open to adults who received their second jab six months ago or longer.
Pfizer doses will be available from pharmacies, GP clinics and state-run hubs across the state.
Nationally, rapid antigen tests also become available on Monday.
The changes come as NSW continues to see virus case numbers and hospitalisations fall, after lockdown rules began to be eased three weeks ago.
Some 177 people were diagnosed with COVID-19 statewide in the 24 hours to 8pm on Saturday, 59 fewer than the day before and the lowest daily tally in more than three months.
Now 340 people are in hospital with the virus, including 78 in intensive care.
One death was announced on Sunday – an unvaccinated woman in her 70s from southwestern Sydney.
Under the change, fully vaccinated passengers won’t have to quarantine in a hotel or at home, paving the way for Australians stranded overseas to be able to come home for Christmas
Australians who have spent the past year-and-a-half itching to go overseas will now be able to do so as long as they’ve received both jabs and are permanent residents or citizens.
Travellers will no longer need to apply for an exemption to leave the country but will need to show proof of their vaccination status.
Those under the age of 12 or who can’t be vaccinated due to medical reasons will also be allowed to travel.
Australians will also need to show proof of a negative PCR Covid test taken 72 hours before they leave the country.
Travellers under the age of five will not need to receive a Covid test.
Those living in Australia who aren’t citizens or don’t have permanent residency are still banned from returning Down Under if they were to leave.
For those who are double-vaxxed and returning to Australia, there is no longer a requirement to quarantine at home or in a hotel upon arrival in NSW, Victoria and the ACT.
This means the gruelling fortnight confined to a hotel room will be a thing of the past, with travellers having had to fork out thousands of dollars to pay for their accommodation.
But the new freedoms do not apply to other states and territories.
In Tasmania, fully-vaccinated travellers can arrive in the state without having to quarantine from December 15.
They will need to provide a negative Covid test 72 hours before arrival.
Qantas has already taken bookings for nearly 500,000 domestic flights within the past fortnight (pictured, Qantas crew on October 28)
Tassie residents who have been out of the state for less than a week will not need to be tested.
Meanwhile Queensland’s borders are set to open on December 17, in line with the state hitting the 80 per cent double vaccination target.
South Australia will welcome back fully-vaccinated domestic travellers from November 23 without quarantine, and international travellers once 90 per cent are double vaxxed.
The Northern Territory will allow travellers from hot spots to home quarantine as of November 23.
Western Australia, which has remained mostly shut off to the rest of the country during the pandemic, is yet to reveal its reopening plan – much to the disappointment of families shut off from their loved ones.
MAJOR CHANGES TO COVID RULES FROM NOVEMBER 1
– Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families can now fly into NSW, Victoria or the ACT without entering hotel quarantine as long as they are fully-vaccinated
– Double-jabbed Australians are also allowed to fly overseas without getting an exemption, and can go anywhere in the world
– Sydneysiders can travel all over NSW
– Borders are down between NSW, the ACT and Victoria