Melbourne residents are set to enjoy their first weekend out of lockdown, as the nation’s airlines prepare for the return of international travel.
The Victorian capital exited its sixth, and last, lockdown on Friday after the state reached vaccination targets, with people able to leave their home for any reason.
However, the state registered 2189 new COVID cases on Friday and 16 new deaths, the deadliest day of the pandemic.
The state’s premier Daniel Andrews said the multiple lockdowns, which had contributed to Melbourne having the longest lockdown of any city in the world, were a thing of the past.
It comes as Qantas unveiled plans for its flight schedule, once international borders reopen on November 1.
Flights to New York and London will begin that day, while flights to destinations such as Singapore, Fiji and Johannesburg have been brought forward.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce welcomed the return of more Qantas routes but said government support to the airline industry would cease if flights returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Victoria’s decision to remove quarantine requirements for vaccinated travellers will also see the national carrier bring forward flights from Melbourne to London and Singapore in November.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government was in discussions with Singapore to establish two-way travel without restrictions.
Meanwhile, Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein announced plans for when the state would reopen its borders.
Travellers will be able to come into Tasmania from December 15, which is expected to be when the state reaches a vaccination rate of 90 per cent.
NSW registered 345 new cases on Friday, as the state urged parents to get their children jabbed ahead of a full return to schools next week.
Case numbers also fell in the ACT, after 13 new infections were reported.
COVID restrictions eased in the capital on Friday, with the reopening of non-essential retail, one week earlier than planned.
Free travel will be back on the cards between Victoria and the ACT from November 1, in line with arrangements between Victoria and NSW.
The latest vaccine statistics have shown the national double dose rate has hit 71.7 per cent of people 16 and over.
The ACT continues to lead the nation for the most vaccinated jurisdiction, with 85.1 per cent of its residents having had two doses, while NSW is not far behind on 83.7 per cent.
The two states furthest behind in the vaccine rollout, Western Australia and Queensland, are both set to reach double-dose rates of 60 per cent in just days.
The Sunshine State is now at 59.4 per cent of its over-16s being fully vaccinated, while 58.3 per cent in WA have had both jabs.