International travel resumes as Victoria records 1471 COVID cases, four deaths

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Victoria has recorded 1471 COVID-19 cases and four deaths as the first fully vaccinated Australians jetted off overseas without the need for a travel exemption for the first time in about 19 months.

There were 25 international flights scheduled to fly in and out of Melbourne and Sydney airports on Monday, as dozens of excited Australians lined up at the check-in desks or arrived back on our shores.

There were emotional scenes at Sydney Airport on Monday morning as Australians returned home.Credit:AP

The first service to land in Sydney just before 6am was a Singapore Airlines flight, followed by a Qantas long-haul flight from Los Angeles.

In Melbourne, the first international flight scheduled to touch down in Tullamarine just before 11am was also a Singapore Airlines flight.

While quarantine upon arrival is no longer a requirement for vaccinated travellers, all passengers arriving from overseas are required to get a PCR test done within 72 hours of their outbound flight to show a negative result at airport check-in.

Qantas passengers are also being asked to check-in four hours before departure and must wear a face mask for the entire trip, apart from when eating and drinking.

Among the first Victorians heading overseas is Brunswick local Janan Salih Sarikaya, who will be flying to her native Cyprus on Friday with her sister to visit their 78-year-old mother, who is undergoing surgery on Thursday.

“I always said I wish I was a stamp on a letter and be sent in the post,” she said. “I said, ‘as soon as it opens I will go’.”

Also flying this week is Melbourne man David O’Connor, who will board a plane for Britain on Wednesday to attend the funeral of his partner’s mother.

“I don’t know what to expect in the UK because they’re not exactly doing very well with COVID,” he said.

The introduction of quarantine-free international travel comes after Victoria eased restrictions for non-essential retail and entertainment venues on Friday ahead of hitting the 80 per cent vaccination milestone on Saturday.

The state is on track to ease further restrictions later this month, with more than 92 per cent of Victorians over the age of 16 having received one jab of the COVID-19 vaccine.

There were 46,065 coronavirus tests processed on Sunday, while 14,413 people rolled up their sleeves for a coronavirus jab at a state-run vaccination hub.

There are now 21,959 active coronavirus cases across the state. Of those, 699 are in hospital, 136 in intensive care and 86 are on a ventilator.

Sunday also marked the beginning of a new era, where COVID-19 press conferences will no longer be a daily occurrence. Updates from Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton will also be released before midday instead of late afternoon.

As he fronted the media for the last daily coronavirus press briefing on Saturday, COVID-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar said he wasn’t hanging up the jacket yet.

“I’ll probably go through a ceremonial burning at some point,” he said.

With Rachael Dexter and Andrew Taylor

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