Australia COVID LIVE updates: Victorian cases continue to surge; Tasmania enters snap lockdown; NSW scraps hotel quarantine for overseas vaccinated travellers

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US travel restrictions to lift for fully-vaccinated international visitors

The United States will lift COVID-19 travel restrictions for fully vaccinated international visitors starting on November 8, ending historic restrictions that had barred much of the world from entering the country for as long as 21 months.

The unprecedented travel restrictions kept millions of visitors out of the United States from China, Canada, Mexico, India, Brazil, much of Europe and elsewhere, shrunk US tourism and hurt border community economies.

The United States will relax its border rules for vaccinated travellers from November 8.Credit:James Brickwood

The restrictions also prevented many loved ones and foreign workers from reuniting with families.

Restrictions on non-US citizens were first imposed on air travellers from China in January 2020 by then-president Donald Trump and then extended to dozens of other countries.

The rule change has been praised as “very welcoming news” by Sweden’s ambassador to the United States, Karin Olofsdotter.

Airlines have seen an increase in international ticket sales in recent weeks after the White House announced plans to lift the restrictions.

Reuters

Thousands of tickets between Sydney and Singapore on sale after NSW drops quarantine

More than 32,000 Singapore Airlines tickets for flights between Singapore and Sydney before Christmas will go on sale this afternoon, following NSW’s decision to drop quarantine for fully vaccinated citizens, residents and their immediate family.

The changes, which spell the beginning of the end of the strict border bans and hotel quarantine requirements, come into effect from November 1, with Premier Dominic Perrottet declaring that NSW was leading the nation out of the pandemic with the move.

Australia’s borders have been closed since March 2020 and since July last year a system of caps on the number of hotel quarantine spaces has led to tens of thousands of Australians being locked outside the country.

There are currently 40,000 Australians registered with DFAT as trying to get home.

Singapore Airlines, which has been operating during the entire pandemic, said tickets for 17 weekly flights between Sydney and Changi Airport would go on sale this afternoon. This amounts to nearly 5000 new seats per week.

Qantas, which grounded its fleet during the pandemic and operated freight-only and taxpayer-subsidised repatriation flights, has brought forward its schedule.

From November 1, it will operate five weekly flights between London and Sydney and four to Los Angeles, and could bring forward flights between Fiji, Singapore and Vancouver which are currently slated to restart December 18.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said yesterday that “we’re not opening up to everyone” and Australian citizens will take precedence before skilled migrants, international students and tourists are welcomed back.

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Anti-vaxxer baggage handler infects co-workers at Melbourne Airport

An anti-vaccination baggage handler at Melbourne Airport is being blamed for passing on COVID-19 to at least seven colleagues and forcing more than 50 workers into enforced two-week isolation.

The Virgin Australia baggage handler came to work while sick in late September, said industry sources who are not authorised to speak publicly. They said he had previously been dismissive of the seriousness of the virus and did not trust vaccines.

The Virgin Australia terminal at Melbourne Airport.Credit:Paul Jeffers

From early October, at least seven colleagues of the baggage handler have since tested positive to the virus. The enforced isolation has cost workers, combined, tens of thousands of dollars in lost shift penalties and weekend rates due to being paid the base hourly wage.

On Sundays, baggage handlers can typically earn double time or about an extra $200 a shift.

A Virgin Australia spokesman said the airline was working with health authorities “regarding a Melbourne-based ground crew member” who tested positive to COVID-19 in late September.

Virgin Australia’s vaccination policy requires all “frontline and airport-based” workers to be vaccinated by November 15, with office staff given until the end of March 2022.

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This morning’s headlines

Good morning and welcome to another day of our live coverage. I’m Georgina Mitchell and I’ll be with you until 2pm.

Here’s what you need to know so far:

  • Southern Tasmania and Hobart have entered a snap three-day lockdown from 6pm on Friday, after a COVID-positive man left quarantine and spent time in the community. He had travelled from NSW via Melbourne

  • A challenge to the NSW vaccine mandate, which requires workers in certain industries to be vaccinated to attend work, has failed in the state’s Supreme Court
  • Victoria recorded 2,179 cases yesterday with six deaths, while NSW recorded 399 new cases and four deaths. The ACT recorded 35 cases and one death as Canberrans exited lockdown
  • Victoria’s border permit system will be significantly eased from Tuesday, with fully-vaccinated visitors from NSW only required to test negative for COVID-19 rather than quarantining for 14 days
  • Vaccinated Australian citizens and residents, and their families – including overseas-based parents – will be the only international groups allowed to enter NSW without completing home or hotel quarantine from November 1, when NSW borders open

A worker prepares a COVID test at Melbourne’s Albert Park. Credit:Joe Armao

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