SYDNEY, October 27 (Reuters) – All fully vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents will be able to leave the country without special exemptions from November 1, authorities said on Wednesday, as Australia eases restrictions on coronaviruses in a context increase in immunization rates.
Australians have been unable to travel abroad for more than 18 months without a government waiver, while thousands of fully vaccinated residents living abroad have been unable to return due to an arrivals cap to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Many of them are now expected to return after Sydney and Melbourne ended quarantine rules for travelers vaccinated from November 1. Other cities, mostly virus-free, are expected to relax their border rules once they reach higher vaccination rates.
“The national plan is working… (it) is about opening up Australia and that’s because vaccination rates are climbing so high,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Seven News on Wednesday.
The Australian drug regulator, meanwhile, has tentatively approved a booster dose of Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine (PFE.N) for people over the age of 18, as first-dose immunization levels in people over 16 were approaching 90%.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the deployment is expected to begin by November 8, once the government receives advice from the country’s immunization technical advisory group.
The decision to lift the travel ban from next week comes after Singapore said on Tuesday it would allow entry without quarantine to travelers vaccinated against COVID-19 from Australia from November 8.
A third wave of infections fueled by the Delta variant has forced closures in Australia’s largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, and the two have gradually eased restrictions after meeting their vaccination targets.
Even with the Delta epidemics, Australia is faring better than many comparable countries, with around 164,000 cases and 1,669 deaths. Victoria state reported 1,534 new cases on Wednesday, up from 1,510 a day earlier, while those in New South Wales fell from 282 to 304.
Report by Renju José; Edited by Richard Pullin
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