Asia Pacific

Melbourne welcomes vaccinated Sydney residents without quarantine

2 minute read

A lone woman, wearing a protective face mask, walks across a city centre bridge as the state of Victoria looks to curb the spread of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Melbourne, Australia, July 16, 2021. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders

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SYDNEY, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Travel restrictions between Sydney and Melbourne, Australia's largest cities, eased on Wednesday as Victoria opened its borders to fully vaccinated residents from New South Wales amid a rapid rise in immunisation levels.

With cases trending lower in New South Wales, including Sydney, residents will be allowed quarantine-free entry into Victoria for the first time in more than three months. Travellers from Melbourne who wish to enter Sydney, however, must undergo a two-week home quarantine.

Daily infections in Victoria rose to 1,841 on Wednesday, up from 1,749 a day earlier. A total of 283 cases were reported in New South Wales, well down from the pandemic high in September.

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The relaxation in border rules comes ahead of Victoria lifting the lockdown in Melbourne, the state capital, on Friday as double-dose vaccination rates in people above 16 neared 70%. More restrictions will be eased when rates pass 80% and 90%.

By Friday, Melbourne's 5 million residents would have endured six lockdowns totalling a cumulative 262 days since March 2020. Australian media say this is the longest in the world, exceeding a 234-day lockdown in Buenos Aires.

Australia had enjoyed a COVID-free life most of this year until a Delta outbreak began in Sydney in June, which quickly spread to neighbouring Victoria. Other states are COVID-free or have very few cases.

Sydney and Canberra exited their months-long strict stay-home restrictions last week after racing through their vaccination targets.

Even with the Delta outbreaks, Australia's COVID-19 numbers are far lower than many developed nations, with about 149,000 cases and 1,577 deaths.

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Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Stephen Coates

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