NSW’s tourism minister, Stuart Ayres, has suggested international travel could resume as early as the end of this month.
Currently, the state has committed to switching hotel for home quarantine to restart commercial flights when it hits 80 per cent double dose vaccinations, but no firm start date has been announced.
Qantas has scheduled flights to London to begin on 14 November, but said the exact date could be moved forward or back.
Speaking on Sunday, Ayres said, “I think it’s a really good objective to be looking at the end of October or early November as an opportunity where we can start to see caps either removed or substantially lifted for fully vaccinated people.
“My very clear expectation is for unvaccinated people or people who do not have a TGA-recognised vaccine, those caps will stay in place and quarantine in some form will stay for those people.”
His comments follow similar hints at the weekend by both new NSW premier Dominic Perrottet and Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Perrottet said he wanted international travel to resume “as quickly as possible” and said Australia can’t “live as a hermit kingdom on the other side of the world”.
“If people are double vaccinated it makes complete sense for them to return to Australia in better settings than being cramped up in a hotel for two weeks,” he said.
Morrison meanwhile said the federal government would look to “fast-track” the process of resuming flights into NSW.
The current plan, unveiled last month, will see seven-day home quarantine replace 14-day hotel quarantine and the ban on Australians leaving the country lifted.
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Initially, the plans will apply to Australian citizens and permanent residents, with skilled migrants and international students coming in the next phase and tourists in the final phase, due for next year.
It comes as 50 Qantas aircrew took part in a home-isolation trial in NSW in September. In total, 175 people were allowed to stay at home for seven days, rather than in a supervised facility for 14. It was suggested location-based apps and facial recognition technology could be used to ensure compliance.
Minister Ayres hailed the move at the time as an “important step” that has been driven by the accelerated vaccine take-up.
“This is a trial, and about testing different types of accommodation, apartments, and homes,” said Minister Ayres.
“We want to ensure we get the spread right. This isn’t about prioritising individuals or people who have been overseas. It’s about ensuring we conduct the trial properly and build the base of evidence, so we can remove our hotel quarantine system for the majority of people who are coming into Australia.
“We can’t stay closed forever. We’ve got to be able to learn what happens when we put people into home-based quarantine.
“Australia must reopen. We must get rid of lockdowns, we must get rid of home quarantine, we must re-engage with the world.
“Sydney is a global city and it must engage with the globe. This is an important step in that direction.”
As it stands, Qantas will operate three weekly return flights between Sydney and London from 14 November, as well as three weekly return flights between Sydney and Los Angeles.
Customers booked on these first flights will have the flexibility to make “fee-free” date changes for travel until 31 December 2022, though a fare difference may apply. If flights are cancelled, customers may also be eligible for a refund or credit voucher.
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