NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said that regional travel restrictions between Greater Sydney and the rest of NSW will be eased once the state hits its 80 per cent vaccination target.
“At 80 per cent double dose vaccination, we can confirm that is when you’ll be able to travel freely throughout New South Wales, and we envisage that to be by the end of October,” Premier Berejiklian said at a press conference on Monday.
Previously, the state was suggesting that regional travel restrictions would be eased once the state reached 70 per cent vaccination within its adult population, however the premier stated this decision was made so the whole state could “move forward together”.
Currently, Premier Berejiklian said the state is expected to hit the 70 per cent vaccination target as of 11 October, with the 80 per cent target to be reached “as little as two weeks” later.
In response to the news, Qantas has announced it will ramp up its operations throughout regional NSW from 25 October, to be about 40 per cent of pre-COVID levels.
Earlier, Rex announced that it had “no option” but to extend its suspension of domestic capital city flights, as well as reduce its regional operations, until at least 31 October, due to current infection rates and the lack of concrete information on the easing of restrictions.
It comes as the NSW government revealed its three-stage roadmap for the easing of restrictions across the state, once the state reaches its 70 and 80 per cent targets, and beyond.
At 80 per cent vaccination, NSW residents will also be able to stand up and drink in pubs and participate in community sport. Later, from 1 December, most restrictions will ease for the entire population of NSW, including caps on weddings and funerals.
Premier Berejiklian also stated on Monday that at 80 per cent vaccination, NSW residents will be able to “consider international travel”, and called on her counterparts across the states and territories to reopen their state borders by Christmas.
“At 1 December, we’ll be at that COVID normal state, where hopefully also we’ll be booking our international travel once the PM gives the green light,” Premier Berejiklian said.
“And I don’t want it to be the case that I can go overseas before I can go to Perth.
“I’m especially excited about having thousands of Aussies come home through Sydney Airport, having families reunite, and the prospect of people have a Christmas with those they love the most.”
It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke out against the state premiers threatening to keep their borders shut to NSW and Victoria over Christmas, despite the national reopening plan.
The Prime Minister stated he “can’t see any reason” why Australians should be unable to cross state borders over Christmas, once 80 per cent of the country’s adult population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as was outlined by national cabinet’s reopening plan.
Both the Queensland and Western Australia governments have repeatedly stated that they are willing to keep their borders shut to the currently locked-down states of NSW and Victoria, even if vaccination rates across the country hit 80 per cent.
“There comes a time when you’ve got to honour the arrangement you’ve made with the Australian people, and that is when you get to 80 per cent vaccination, it’s very clear that you can start opening up,” PM Morrison said, speaking from the US on Weekend Sunrise on Sunday.
PM Morrison noted that while the premiers’ powers to shut their states’ borders to other Australian states are “not new powers”, he said “there comes a time when you have just got to move on and get on with it”.
“What I’d like [Australians] to have for Christmas is their lives back, and that’s within the gift of governments and that’s a gift I’d like to see us give them,” the Prime Minister added.
The Prime Minister said that other “common sense” instruments, including QR code check-ins at public venues and face masks, will still be implemented as Australians learn to “live with the virus”.