No travel for NSW until slow states catch up on vaccination

NSW residents will have to wait until 80 per cent of all Australians are vaccinated before they can travel overseas, despite a push by some Sydney Liberal MPs to open the gates as soon as the state reaches its target.

Federal Trade and Tourism Minister Dan Tehan stressed all states must stick to the plan agreed by national cabinet as he confirmed a travel bubble with Singapore will commence as soon as 80 per cent of Australians are fully vaccinated.

Qantas announced plans last week to restart international flights out of Sydney by Christmas.

Qantas announced plans last week to restart international flights out of Sydney by Christmas.

At a meeting on Friday, trade ministers agreed to finalise rules for the bubble by the end of the year so that when Australia hits its target, “Singapore will be ready to go”, Mr Tehan said.

The bubble is expected to operate similarly to Australia’s arrangements with New Zealand – which are currently suspended – and allow for quarantine-free travel between both countries.

While discussions with Singapore are the most advanced, substantial talks have taken place with Pacific nations and there have been “preliminary discussions” with Japan, South Korea, the United States and United Kingdom.

“We’ll be looking to build on and expand the bubbles consistent with the national plan once we hit that 80 per cent mark,” Mr Tehan said. Singapore is due to reach that mark within days.

Qantas last week unveiled plans to restart flights to several overseas destinations including the US and Canada in December, anticipating Australia will open its borders before Christmas and allow home quarantine.

But as some states, including NSW, surge ahead on vaccinations, tensions are brewing over when and how to lift the bar on Australians travelling overseas.

On Saturday, federal government data showed 65.4 per cent of people in NSW over 16 had at least one dose of the vaccine and 35.4 per cent two doses, compared to 56.9 per cent and 33.9 per cent nationally. On current projections NSW could hit 80 per cent full vaccination by late October.