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Australia lifts outbound travel ban for vaccinated residents

Australian citizens and permanent residents will be able to leave the country without a special exemption from Nov. 1, authorities said on Wednesday, as Australia eases coronavirus restrictions amid a rise in vaccination rates.

They have been unable to travel to other places since 18 months without a government waiver, while thousands of fully-vaccinated residents living abroad have been unable to return due to a cap on arrivals to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Many of them are now expected to return after Sydney and Melbourne ended quarantine rules for travelers vaccinated since November. Other cities, mostly virus-free, are expected to relax their border rules once higher vaccination rates are reached.

“The national plan is working … (it) is about opening Australia up and that is because the vaccination rates are climbing so high,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Seven News on Wednesday. Australia’s drug regulator, meanwhile, provisionally approved a booster dose of Pfizer Inc’s (PFE.N) COVID-19 vaccine for people aged over 18, as first-dose vaccination levels in people over 16 neared 90%.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the rollout is expected to begin by Nov. 8 once the government receives advice from the country’s vaccination technical advisory group. The decision to lift the travel ban from next week comes after Singapore on Tuesday said it would allow quarantine-free entry to travellers vaccinated against COVID-19 from Australia from Nov. 8.

A third wave of infections fuelled by the Delta variant compelled lockdowns in Australia’s largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, and each were gradually easing restrictions after racing through their vaccination targets.

Even with the Delta outbreaks, Australia has fared better than many comparable countries, with around 164,000 cases and 1,669 deaths. Victoria state reported 1,534 new cases on Wednesday, up from 1,510 a day earlier, while those in New South Wales rose to 304 from 282.

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