NSW Premier Wants Overseas Travel Restart

Epidemic growth rate R dips below one for first time since Delta outbreak
September 25, 2021 Updated: September 26, 2021

Australia’s most populous state, NSW, will in the coming week reveal its roadmap for 80 percent vaccination coverage, with the premier wanting international travel to resume “at the earliest opportunity.”

The state recorded nine additional deaths in the 24 hours to 8 p.m. local time on Saturday. None of the nine people, aged from their 40s to their 80s, were double jabbed.

The death toll for the state’s current outbreak now stands at 297. There are currently 1,146 COVID-19 cases in hospital in NSW, with 222 people in intensive care and 117 on ventilators.

The number of people infected on average by each positive case in that week—known as the epidemic growth rate or R—dipped to 0.98, falling below one for the first time since the outbreak began in mid-June.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Sunday told reporters the government’s plans for 80 percent double-dose vaccination coverage—expected in roughly late October—will be revealed in the coming days.

The government has said its will return freedoms to fully vaccinated Australians commencing at 70 percent vaccine coverage.

It is likely to include larger gathering caps, larger major event crowds, auctions, and the resumption of community sport. But it may also involve the government delaying the resumption of regional NSW travel from 70 percent to 80 percent coverage.

Berejiklian has already promised to rapidly increase international flight arrival caps for stranded Australians overseas.

On Sunday, she expressed her hope that outbound travel, currently banned by federal authorities, would also be allowed again imminently.

It comes a day after Berejiklian’s Queensland counterpart Annastacia Palaszczuk expressed her strong aversion to the resumption of international travel any time soon.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously expressed his support for NSW residents resuming international travel before other states.

“Other states may not be ready for that yet but that’s OK, NSW is moving fast and if we feel it’s safe to do so, of course we’ll allow our double vaccinated citizens to move freely,” Berejiklian said.

“I’d like NSW residents who are fully vaccinated to be able to go overseas at the earliest opportunity … if they’re double vaccinated and have those plans, and the airlines are flying in, why not?”

Freedoms for the unvaccinated will be also restored at an unspecified later date, Berejiklian said, but not in the short term.

Greater Sydney has now been in lockdown for more than 13 weeks, with some residents given marching orders after large crowds gathered at beaches in Bondi and Manly on Friday.

Police issued three fines for breaching public health orders and a number of move-on directions as they dispersed the throngs.

“I ask everybody to please hold the line. It’s really important we work hard now so when we do start opening up at 70 percent, we’re able to do so safely and by bringing everyone together,” Berejiklian said.

“All of us would like to think that once we get to that 80 percent double dose, it will be back to living without COVID, but it will not be.

“It will be a new COVID normal but we will enjoy so many more freedoms than what we have today and we will all adjust our lives.”

By Angelo Risso and Hannah Ryan. The Epoch Times contributed to this report.