What Does New South Wales No Quarantine Announcement Mean For Travelers?

Australia’s economic powerhouse and most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), is re-opening to travelers. In a surprise move last week, the NSW Government decided to drop all quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated incoming travelers, laying out the welcome mat at Sydney Airport.

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One Australian state is allowing fully vaccinated travelers quarantine-free entry. Photo: Qantas

“From November 1, the NSW Government will remove quarantine requirements and caps for overseas arrivals who the Commonwealth Government recognizes as fully vaccinated with a TGA-approved vaccine,” reads an October 15 press release.

“Overseas arrivals who are not fully vaccinated will be capped at 210 people per week and will be required to undergo mandatory 14-days hotel quarantine.”

The backstory to this sudden decision

State Premiers don’t have any direct power over who enters and leaves Australia. But they do run health systems, and Australia’s Federal Government has farmed out much of the quarantine process to individual states. Individual states’ ability (and willingness) to manage the quarantine process and any attendant health issues have given them considerable indirect power over who and how many people can fly into international airports in their states.

Layer onto this the propensity of some state premiers to close their internal borders (another suddenly discovered power), and you have the unedifying situation of grasping and provincial politicians having the upper hand on borders.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian was an exception. She generally made decisions based on the national interest rather than her own electoral interests. An unfortunate choice of boyfriend recently saw her resign and Dominic Perrottet step into the role. But Perrottet is even more pro-opening up than Berejiklian.

While Gladys did the hard yards, Dominic now gets to re-open Sydney after 100 odd days of lockdown, and he’s doing so with gusto.

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NSW is dropping quarantine requirements and lifting caps on arrivals on November 1. Photo: Getty Images

Still a long way from business as usual

While Perrottet does have the power to lift quarantine rules in NSW, he doesn’t have the power to simply let anyone come in. The Federal Government is keen to re-open Australia’s borders and happy to have at least one gung-ho premier on side, but Australia will remain largely closed to non-citizens and permanent residents until the end of the year (at the current best estimate).

The net effect of the NSW Government’s decision to remove quarantine requirements and arrival limits for vaccinated travelers is that Australians will be allowed to come and go from the country – from Sydney Airport at least.

On the face of it, that’s very good news for the tens of thousands of Australians who’ve been stranded overseas for up to 18 months now.

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State police are zealously guarding interstate border crossings and keeping people from NSW out. Photo: Getty Images

Other states close their borders to travelers from NSW

While the situation is likely to change, only NSW is allowing quarantine-free entry, meaning a resident of another Australian state, say Queensland, can find themselves locked out of that state if they arrive or depart the country via Sydney.

A Queenslander may be able to fly into Sydney without any issues, but that last leg home remains a problem. The Queensland Government has closed its border to NSW and requires those very few it does deign let through to quarantine for two weeks. Queensland isn’t unique. Under current arrangements, incoming arrivals into Sydney won’t be able to continue to any other state or territory other than Victoria.

That’s fine if you are NSW or Victoria-based, but not much good if you live in one of the other states or territories.

The upshot is the re-opening of New South Wales and Sydney Airport comes with many caveats. It’s a start but there is a long way to go before moving in, out, and around Australia normalizes.

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