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Aussies at front of line as borders open, says PM

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Stranded Australians will be at the front of the queue when international travel resumes, ahead of migrant workers, students and tourists.

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Tough coronavirus border clamps will be eased next month with people allowed to leave the country and arrivals welcomed to Sydney.

Clearing the backlog of more than 45,000 stranded citizens and permanent residents will be the government’s top priority.

But the ailing tourism sector is set to endure more pain in coming months with international visitors not expected until 2022.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said fully vaccinated citizens, along with their partners and children, would be among the first to benefit from a shift to home quarantine.

“The first cab off the rank is Australians,” he told the Seven Network on Tuesday.

NSW is expected to be the first state to welcome larger-scale international arrivals who would spend a week in home isolation rather than 14 days in hotels.

An 80 per cent double-dose vaccination rate will form a crucial trigger for states’ getting access to overseas travel.

Skilled migrants and international students are considered a higher priority than people visiting Australia for a holiday.

“We will get to international visitors as well, I believe, next year. The priority is Australians. We’re ready for takeoff,” Morrison said.

The federal government will also consider adding parents to the list of immediate family members cleared for travel in 2022.

Australia is on track to reach an 80 per cent full vaccination coverage of people aged 16 and above in mid-November.

But progress in virus-free states like Queensland and Western Australia has been slower than NSW, Victoria and the ACT which remain in outbreak-induced lockdowns.

The prime minister continues to raise the prospect of people living in states with high immunisation rates holidaying overseas before being allowed into WA or Queensland.

“People in Sydney and quite possibly Melbourne will be travelling to Bali by Christmas. But no one in WA will,” he told Perth radio 6PR.

Indonesia plans to reopen Bali to international flights on October 14, after closing it for more than a year because of the pandemic.

Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said Monday the airport will open to international flights as long as it fulfills requirements for quarantine and testing.

International arrivals must show proof of hotel bookings for a mandatory eight-day quarantine.

Australia’s two-jab vaccination coverage is almost 57 per cent of over-16s and expected to pass 80 per cent for at least one dose on Tuesday.

Coronavirus cases continue to surge to record levels with Victoria reporting another 1763 new infections and four deaths.

While case numbers are falling in NSW, another daily tally in the hundreds is set to fuel a national high on Tuesday.

 

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