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Qantas brings forward international flights by two weeks after NSW scraps hotel quarantine

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Qantas has announced it will restart international flights two weeks earlier than planned after announcements by the NSW and Federal governments today.

Australia’s international carrier said it will operate up to five return flights a week from Sydney to London, and up to four return flights a week from Sydney to Los Angeles with its Boeing 787 Dreamliners from November 1. 

More flights will be added to meet demand if needed, Qantas said in a press release. 

The first flights are limited to Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families and parents, following Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement today that international visitors would remain restricted from entering the country for now. 

‘In just a little over two weeks, Australians around the world can fly into Sydney and people from around Australia can leave on trips they’ve been waiting almost two years to take,’ Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said. 

‘We hope other states will do the same once they reach the 80 per cent target.’ 

Qantas has announced it will restart international flights two weeks earlier than planned, with the first flights limited to Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families and parents

Passengers who had already booked to travel to and from Los Angeles or London and want to travel earlier are able to make a fee-free date change to their flight on the Qantas site, the airline added.

Flights to other destinations including Singapore, Fiji and Vancouver are still scheduled to commence from 18 December 2021, with other destinations to restart in the new year. 

Qantas said the removal of quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travelers arriving in New South Wales meant it might bring forward some additional destinations from Sydney if possible. 

‘Removing quarantine for the fully vaccinated is a sensible approach and brings New South Wales into line with many other global cities,’ Mr Joyce said.

‘It’s a massive step towards life as we knew it.’ 

The announcement by Mr Perrottet this morning means that from November 1, vaccinated Aussies and their immediate family can travel overseas from any state but only NSW will let them come back without any quarantine. 

Excited Aussies are already scrambling to book flights after NSW announced it will become the first state in the country to end quarantine. 

In a press conference on Friday morning NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced that arrival caps as well any type of quarantine for vaccinated Australians and foreigners flying into Sydney would be scrapped in two weeks. 

Mr Perrottet’s declaration that NSW was ‘opening up for business’ has been much-needed news to international airlines as it promises to boost business with about 6000-seats-a-day available to bring travellers into Sydney airport.

Delighted Australians have also fired up their social media accounts to praise the state for leading the nation’s efforts to climb out of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

A raft of new freedoms will be restored across NSW from next week as the state nears its 80 per cent double dose vaccination target. Pictured: Woman pose for a photo in Sydney on Tuesday after the state exited lockdown

A raft of new freedoms will be restored across NSW from next week as the state nears its 80 per cent double dose vaccination target. Pictured: Woman pose for a photo in Sydney on Tuesday after the state exited lockdown 

‘NSW taking one for the team. Every other state will learn from your endeavours,’ one person wrote.

‘Quarantine is dead, buried and cremated for vaccinated, covid-negative travellers from November 1st. Good. F***ing. Riddance,’ someone else Tweeted.

‘Great to see! A step towards opening the whole of Australia to travellers,’ another added. 

WHAT’S ALLOWED FROM NOVEMBER 1 

– From November 1 rules will relax further to allow travel between Greater Sydney and regional NSW.

– NSW will also welcome international tourists and workers from all countries with no quarantine at all if they are fully vaccinated. 

– Cap of 210 unvaccinated arrivals per week with 14-day hotel quarantine still enforced for them.

– The 20 person cap on bookings at bars will also be removed on this day. 

Some said they had already booked flights overseas to go on holidays and reunite with loved ones.

‘Booked flights to see my mum in the UK!’ 9News journalist Sarah Swain tweeted.

‘Not until Jan as was not keen to join the Xmas rush/ in case it didn’t happen.’  

‘This is literally the best news all year. Hurts me to say it but NSW is putting the rest of the country to shame! Already have my flights booked to Europe in December!’ another man wrote.

‘Finally some common sense after 18 months!’

But other Australians were less impressed, fearing reopening borders would leave immuno-compromised and unvaccinated residents vulnerable to catching Covid-19.

‘Madness. Against all sensible medical advice. December death toll will be horrendous,’ one person wrote.

‘Does the NSW Premier know that at 80 per cent of over 16s vaccinated there are still over 2.5million people unvaccinated in NSW alone?’ another Tweeted.

‘NSW has abandoned any pretense of following medical advice regarding Covid. As a Sydneysider, I find this horrifying. I fear the impact on the vulnerable,’ a third said.

The move blindsided Prime Minister Morrison – who hadn’t fronted the cameras in eight days – and forced him to emerge from Kirribilli House to clarify that Australia’s borders will not yet open to tourists. 

'Hotel quarantine is a thing of the past. We are opening Sydney and New South Wales to the world, and that date will come in on November 1st,' NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Friday

‘Hotel quarantine is a thing of the past. We are opening Sydney and New South Wales to the world, and that date will come in on November 1st,’ NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Friday

‘All we are talking about now is Australian citizens, residents and their immediate families, which will be looking to extend to the parents of those Australian citizens and residents,’ he said.

‘We are not opening up to everyone coming back to Australia at the moment. I want to be clear about that. 

‘We will take this forward in a staged way as we have done in all these things.

‘It is for the Commonwealth and Federal Government to decide when to the border opens it shut at an international level and we will do that. 

‘In the first instance it will be for Australian residents and their families. 

‘We will see how that goes and then we will be to other priorities set out as being skilled migration as well as students to Australia and then we will move onto challenge of dealing with international visitors to Australia.’ 

NSW will not enforce any quarantine at all on vaccinated arrivals from November 1. Pictured: Sydney Airport in December

NSW will not enforce any quarantine at all on vaccinated arrivals from November 1. Pictured: Sydney Airport in December 

Before Friday, NSW had been planning a seven-day home-quarantine system – but this has been scrapped after a trial showed it used up too many resources to police.

Mr Morrison admitted that the first he heard of NSW’s plan to scrap quarantine altogether was when the premier announced it on Friday morning.

‘I’ve written to the premiers and chief ministers earlier this week asking them to confirm the arrangements they would have… the premier wrote back to me today and confirmed that would be on the 1 November and under those no quarantine arrangements for vaccinated Australians,’ he said.  

Australia’s international border has been closed since March 2020 to reduce the spread of coronavirus – and no date has been set for a re-opening.

The national re-opening plan agreed by all states and territories in August states that once 80 per cent of over 16s are vaccinated then there will be a ‘gradual opening of inward and outward travel with safe countries’. 

Overseas arrival limits will be scrapped for the fully-vaccinated, while only 210 unvaccinated travellers will be permitted into NSW a week from November 1

The travel announcement came as Mr Perrottet eased more restrictions. 

From the beginning of next month, bookings for hospitality venues will no longer be capped and people entering the state will be able to sidestep mandatory isolation if they can provide proof of vaccination and submit a PCR Covid test. 

Overseas arrivals caps will also be lifted for those fully-vaccinated with a TGA-approved jab.

Unvaccinated inbound travellers will be capped at 210 people per week and will have to undergo mandatory quarantine.  

Greater Sydney residents will also be free to travel to the regions from November 1, when it’s expected more than 77 per cent of regional LGAs will be fully-vaccinated.

While many are excited by the prospective of travel, Board of Airline Representatives of Australia executive director Barry Abrams said a few issues would need to be addressed before international trips resume.

‘The first key issue that needs to be resolved as soon as possible, is how the airlines are going to verify the vaccination status of inbound and outbound passengers,’ he said, the Daily Telegraph reports. 

‘Airlines have been having a number of good discussions with government agencies but we would like to see this sorted urgently.’

Delighted Aussies flocked online to share their excitement about the changes coming into effect from November 1

Delighted Aussies flocked online to share their excitement about the changes coming into effect from November 1

One woman from Queensland said she was happy to hear about the freedoms in NSW

One woman from Queensland said she was happy to hear about the freedoms in NSW 

However, others were less impressed the NSW Government decision to completely scrap quarantine for the fully-vaccinated

However, others were less impressed the NSW Government decision to completely scrap quarantine for the fully-vaccinated 

Mr Abrams said further clarification is also needed about how unvaccinated passengers will be flown into the country. 

He suggested the group of up to 210 people a week be flown on a ‘one off commercial charter’ into NSW, rather than having them separated across several flights. 

Although Mr Perrottet is yet to reveal the finer details, he said the easing of restrictions and return of overseas travellers would help reunite families and be a significant boost for the economy.

‘We have reached this vaccination milestone quicker than anyone thought we could, and that is a testament to the hard work of people across the state turning out to get vaccinated,’ he told reporters on Friday. 

‘Welcoming back fully-vaccinated travellers will not only mean families and friends can be home in time for Christmas, it will also give our economy a major boost.’ 

Fully-vaccinated travellers already in quarantine will be also released on November 1 – even if it has been less than 14 days.  

Meanwhile, Mr Perrottet said from Monday house visitation limits will double from 10 to 20 and outdoor gatherings from 30 to 50. 

Fully-vaccinated travellers will also no longer need to hotel quarantine, but will need to submit a PCR test and provide proof of vaccination. Pictured: People arriving at a hotel quarantine facility in Sydney in May

Fully-vaccinated travellers will also no longer need to hotel quarantine, but will need to submit a PCR test and provide proof of vaccination. Pictured: People arriving at a hotel quarantine facility in Sydney in May 

NSW is quickly closing in on its 80 per cent of adults double vaccinated target as the state reports 399 new cases of Covid-19 on Friday

NSW is quickly closing in on its 80 per cent of adults double vaccinated target as the state reports 399 new cases of Covid-19 on Friday

‘Standing up in pubs will be back. There will be no limits on weddings and funerals,’ he said.  

Major recreation facilities will be allowed to host 5,000 spectators while entertainment facilities can return to 75 per cent capacity.

Weddings and funerals will no longer have a cap on the number of guests.

The 20-person cap on bookings at restaurants and other hospitality venues will also be scrapped from November 1. 

‘We have only been able to do this because of the significant effort of the people across New South Wales have made in getting us to this point,’ Mr Perrottet said. 

NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole confirmed the decision to delay travel to the regions until November 1 had been taken because of the risk to communities where vaccination rates lag behind the cities.

Delaying regional travel was necessary to protect communities from a virus outbreak because only 36 per cent of regional local government areas have populations where 80 per cent are double vaccinated.

‘We have to make sure that there is a balance between protecting communities and opening up,’ Mr Toole said.

Extra support for businesses in regional NSW affected by the delay in opening up the rest of the state would be provided, Mr Perrottet said.

Some 77.4 per cent of adults have now received two doses of the vaccine with 80 per cent expected to be double-jabbed by Saturday

Some 77.4 per cent of adults have now received two doses of the vaccine with 80 per cent expected to be double-jabbed by Saturday

Regional travel, which was expected to restart once the milestone was hit, has now been delayed until November 1

Regional travel, which was expected to restart once the milestone was hit, has now been delayed until November 1

‘The Job Centre payment which we are tapering off – we will extend that for regional New South Wales at 30 per cent of payroll until November 1,’ he said.  

Some 77.4 per cent of adults have now received two doses of the vaccine with 80 per cent expected to be double-jabbed by Saturday.  

Earlier Mr Toole said the decision to delay regional travel was ‘frustrating’. 

‘I know it’s a very difficult time because I know that people are wanting to pack their bags,’ he told 2GB on Friday morning.

‘They’re wanting to go to regional NSW, they want to go on a holiday, they want to go and catch up with family and their loved ones.’ 

‘I know it’s not an easy decision that’s been made. We have a responsibility here to make sure we keep our regional community safe.’    

The eased restrictions will come after NSW quietly launched the vaccine passport overnight.

For those who have received both jabs and have the updated Service NSW app on their phones, their vaccine status will pop up when they check into a venue using the standard QR code process.

Sydneysiders earlier had to scroll through their Medicare app or carry a paper certificate to prove to staff they’d been jabbed but now a green tick will appear whenever they sign into a business.

NSW is quickly closing in on its 80 per cent of adults double vaccinated target as the state reports 399 new cases of Covid-19 on Friday

NSW is quickly closing in on its 80 per cent of adults double vaccinated target as the state reports 399 new cases of Covid-19 on Friday

For those wanting to take advantage of the new ‘VaxPass’ they will need to ensure their MyGov account account has been linked to Medicare.

Then either through the online MyGov site or the Express Plus Medicare app users are instructed to click ‘Proof of vaccinations’ and then ‘View history’.

They will then be given the option to choose their Covid vaccine digital certificate and link this with the Service NSW app.

Customer Service minister Victor Dominello tweeted a photo of his vaccine passport while checking into a cafe on Friday morning.

The system had earlier attracted criticism for not being ready when Sydney was finally freed from its gruelling four-month lockdown on Monday.

With the launch overnight, the vaccine passport was up and running three days earlier than Mr Dominello had planned, making it a whole lot easier for pub goers heading out for Friday night drinks.

Several security measures will be in place including a hologram of the NSW Waratah logo to help businesses ensure their customers are complying with the rules. 

Trials of the app had been carried out in clubs and aged care facilities in Port Macquarie, Tamworth, Wagga Wagga and Lismore.  

Freedoms at 80 per cent jab rate 

Masks and QR codes:

Masks required for all staff and customers in all indoor settings including on public transport, planes and in airports (except children under the age of 12).

Masks no longer required in office buildings (unvaccinated people must still wear a mask in the office).

Masks no longer required in outdoor settings (except for front-of-house hospitality staff).

COVID Safe check-ins and proof of vaccination required for staff and customers.

Visiting family and friends:

Up to 20 visitors allowed in your home at any one time (visitor limits do not apply for children under the age of 12).

Small outdoor gatherings and recreation permitted for up to 50 people (2-person limit for people not fully vaccinated).

Visitors to residents in aged care facilities and disability homes permitted in line with their policies.

Exercise and recreation:

Gyms, indoor recreation and sporting facilities open with density limits and up to 20 people in classes.

No distance limits apply for exercise or recreation.

Indoor swimming pools open for swimming lessons, training and rehab activities.

Community sports permitted for fully vaccinated staff, spectators and participants.

Shopping and personal services: 

Non-critical retail open with density limits (people who are not fully vaccinated can only access non-critical retail via Click & Collect).

No customer limit for personal services (including hairdressers, spas, beauty and nail salons, tattoo and massage parlours), density limits apply.

Sex services premises reopen.

Restaurants and hospitality: 

Hospitality open with density limit for up to 20 people per booking (takeaway only for people who are not fully vaccinated).

No singing indoors (except for performers).

Dancing is permitted indoors and outdoors (except at nightclubs).

Drinking indoors and outdoors may be seated or standing.

Working from home:

Employers allow staff to continue to work from home, if reasonably practicable.

Employers require staff who are not fully vaccinated to work from home, if reasonably practicable.

Events and entertainment:

Major recreation facilities (including stadiums, theme parks, and race courses) open with density limits for up to 5000 people, or by exemption.

Entertainment facilities (including cinemas and theatres) reopen with density limit or 75% fixed seated capacity.

Information and education facilities (including art galleries, museums and libraries) reopen with density limits.

COVID safe outdoor gatherings permitted for up to 200 people.

Controlled outdoor public gatherings (for example – fenced, seated ticketed) permitted for up to 3000 people with density limit.

Nightclubs and strip clubs reopen with seated drinking and no dancing.

Weddings and religious services:

Wedding ceremonies permitted with no person limit (5-person limit for people who are not fully vaccinated), density limit still applies.

Wedding receptions permitted with no person limits (not permitted for people who are not fully vaccinated), eating and drinking while standing, and dancing is permitted, density limit still apply.

Funerals permitted with no person limit (10-person limit for people who are not fully vaccinated) and eating and drinking allowed while standing, density limits still apply.

Places of worship reopen for people who are not fully vaccinated with density limits.

Up to 10 fully vaccinated singers may perform in places of worship and at religious services.    

Source: NSW Government   

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