Sydney is scrapping mandatory quarantine for overseas travelers from next month, officials said Friday, signalling a faster-than-expected end to tough coronavirus restrictions.
Australia’s borders have been closed for the last 19 months to prevent the spread of Covid-19, stranding tens of thousands of Australians overseas and leading critics to dub the country a “hermit state.”
Currently, anyone who enters Australia has to qualify for an exemption to travel and fork out many thousands of dollars to be locked in a hotel room for 14 days.
New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said that, from November 1, fully vaccinated travelers to the state will have to test negative before getting on the plane, but would not have to quarantine at all on arrival.
“For double vaccinated people around the world, Sydney, New South Wales, is open for business,” he said. “Hotel quarantine will be a thing of the past. This is a significant day for our state.”
Sydney’s 100-plus-day lockdown lifted last week and lingering rules are gradually being phased out.
Under a national post-pandemic road map, borders were to gradually reopen in November, with only Australians and permanent residents allowed in with mandatory home quarantine.
Perrottet’s comments indicate those restrictions will be scrapped faster than planned – with tourists able to come to Australia too and quarantine requirements removed altogether.
The last 19 months have been devastating for Australia’s tourist industry, with visitor numbers down 98% since before the pandemic, according to Tourism Australia statistics.
The announcement also raises the prospect that Sydney residents will be allowed to visit Paris but not Perth, as Western Australia’s borders with the rest of the country remain closed.