Australia is taking steps to return to a pre-pandemic normality with the end of lockdowns and changes to quarantine rules for visitors.
In New South Wales — home to the country’s most populous city, Sydney — certain visitors will no longer have to quarantine in select hotels for 14 days upon arrival, Premier Dominic Perrottet said.
The rule, which goes into effect November 1, applies to any vaccinated visitor who tests negative for COVID prior to arrival to the region. The announcement comes just days after Sydney lifted a lockdown after more than three months.
“We can’t live here in a hermit kingdom. We’ve got to open up,” Perrottet said, according to the Associated Press. “This decision today is a big one, but it is the right one to get New South Wales connected globally. It’s going to be great for our tourism industry. It’s going to be great for tourist operators.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has yet to say when foreign tourists will be allowed to travel to Australia, although it will not be until 2022.
Relaxed travel restrictions, however, will allow permanent residents and citizens to travel freely for the first time in more than 18 months.
The changes are welcome by the tourism industry.
“Australia’s tourism industry has borne the brunt of international border closures with many businesses suffering with no income since March 2020,” said Peter Shelley, managing director of the Australian Tourism Export Council. “This announcement not only gives tourism businesses their income back, but also lets the world know they are welcome back in Australia.”
Queensland, Australia’s third most populous state, announced a new reopening plan Sunday. When the population reaches an 80 percent vaccination rate — projected to be hit on December 17, “in time for Christmas,” the statement reads — fully vaccinated out-of-state travelers will be able to enter the state. They must present a negative COVID test no more than 72 hours old.
Meanwhile, the world’s longest lockdown is coming to an end this week in Melbourne. Stay-at-home orders in the city will be lifted by the end of the week, ending the sixth lockdown in the city since the start of the pandemic.
Lockdowns in Melbourne have been in effect for 262 days, the longest on record worldwide.
“Today is a great day,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said, according to NBC News. “Today is a day Victorians can be proud of what they have achieved.”
Australia has had some of the strictest rules during the pandemic as well as some of the most success in containing the virus.
Since March 2020, Australia has recorded just 143,000 cases and 1,530 deaths, numbers that the United States would surpass in a single day for much of the pandemic.
Andrews said the region’s new strategy is pretty straightforward.
“We’re not locking people down any more across the board,” Andrews said, according to Aljazeera. “We are instead locking people out who have not got vaccinated to protect themselves and protect everybody else.”