Australia eased its international border restrictions on Monday for the first time in the pandemic, allowing some of its vaccinated public to travel freely and many families to reunite, sparking emotional embraces at Sydney’s airport.
After 18 months of some of the world’s strictest coronavirus border policies that banned citizens from coming back into the country and leaving it, unless granted an exemption, millions of Australians in Victoria, New South Wales and Canberra are now free to travel.
A flight by flag carrier Qantas Airways from Los Angeles touched down in Sydney at 6 a.m., Australia’s biggest airline said, the first in months to let COVID-19 vaccinated Australians walk off a plane without quarantining.
International travelers also arrived in Sydney via Singapore Airlines early on Monday.
Australia’s treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Monday that the travel changes would immediately aid the economy.
“It’s a day for celebration — the fact that Australians can move more freely in and out of our country without home quarantine, if they’re double-vaccinated,” Frydenberg said.
Television and social media footage showed tearful family reunions, with strict travel rules previously prohibiting many people from attending significant events, including weddings and funerals.
The relaxation of travel rules is tied to rising vaccination rates, with more than 80 per cent of people aged 16 and older in Australia’s two most populous states, New South Wales and Victoria, as well as the capital territory fully vaccinated.
Australians and permanent residents living abroad may now return, with data from the Department of Foreign Affairs showing about 47,000 people are hoping to do so.
Most tourists — even vaccinated ones — have to wait to come to Australia, although vaccinated tourists from New Zealand will be allowed in beginning on Monday.
Unvaccinated travellers will still face quarantine restrictions, and all travellers need proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding.
The change in travel rules, however, is not uniform across Australia, as the country’s states and territories have differing vaccination rates and health policies.
Australia closed its borders at the start of the pandemic and let only a limited number of citizens and permanent residents return from abroad, subject to an exemption and a mandatory 14-day quarantine period in a hotel at their own expense.
But as it switched its COVID-zero pandemic management strategy toward living with the virus through extensive vaccinations, borders are gradually reopening.
While the delta outbreak kept Sydney and Melbourne in lockdowns for months until recently, Australia’s COVID-19 cases remain far lower than many comparable countries, with just over 170,500 infections and 1,735 deaths.
What’s happening in Canada
WATCH | NACI expands recommendations for booster shots:
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday, more than 246.5 million COVID-19 cases had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s online coronavirus database. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.9 million.
In Asia, South Korea will drop all operating-hour curbs on restaurants and cafes and implement its first vaccine passport for high-risk venues such as gyms, saunas and bars.
In Europe, Russia recorded 40,993 new infections — a new daily high — as much of the country’s businesses remain closed in an effort to counter a weeks-long surge in infections.
In the Americas, enrolment in U.S. government-run health insurance program Medicaid during the pandemic grew 16 per cent, with more than 11 million additional sign ups, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said.
In Africa, Tanzania has made up for a slow start and has now administered more than 940,000 vaccine doses so far, according to the World Health Organization Africa Region.
View original article here Source