NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Wednesday that the state had vaccinated all its hotel quarantine workers.
The news is significant given increasing evidence that both the Oxford and Pfizer jabs significantly reduce transmission of COVID, stopping the virus ‘leak out’.
A cluster on Sydney’s Northern Beaches led to most states and territories closing their borders to NSW at Christmas, while Brisbane entered a three-day lockdown in January with its own outbreak and Melbourne a five-day lockdown in February.
Premier Berejiklian revealed the news while also announcing a significant easing of restrictions, that will see nightclubs open for the first time since the pandemic started and removal of the requirement to wear masks on public transport.
“With no community transmission and our quarantine and frontline workers now receiving their second vaccinations, the timing is right to further ease restrictions across the state,” she said.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet added the state is now “back to normal”.
“This is an amazing achievement from where we were just last year … so to have the freedoms and the options we have is a testament to the people of our state.”
NSW is currently taking the vast bulk of returned citizens, with Sydney quarantine hotels now accepting 3,000 entrants per week. The next highest is Queensland, taking 1,000.
The news comes after Australia’s arrival caps in February returned to their previously higher December 2020 levels, which were cut at the start of 2021 following a second COVID cluster in Sydney.
The January temporary cuts formed part of the biggest overhaul of the quarantine program since its inception, and also included a provision for passengers to wear masks on all domestic and international flights; for hotel staff to be tested daily and for ex-pats to require a negative result before boarding a repatriation flight.
Arrival caps were introduced in July and sat at 4,000, before increasing to 6,500 at the end of 2020 and then decreasing to just over 4,000 in January 2021.
Australia has currently approved two vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/Astrazeneca.