CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s Queensland state announced plans Monday to open up to vaccinated travelers, ending the status it has enjoyed throughout the pandemic of remaining virtually free of COVID-19.
Queensland and Western Australia have been among the states most successful in keeping COVID-19 out, and they also were among the most reluctant to relax their strict border controls after the highly contagious delta variant took hold in New South Wales state in June and spread through Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory.
Queensland authorities warned infection rates would rise and remain high for months.
“For almost 600 days for nearly two years we have kept the virus out of Queensland,” Treasurer Cameron Dick said. “Those days will soon come to an end. This will be the end of the zero COVID for Queensland."
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said fully vaccinated travelers would be allowed into the state without quarantining when 80% of the state’s population aged 16 and older was vaccinated. That benchmark is expected to be achieved by Dec. 17.
Travelers would also need to test negative to COVID-19 within three days before entering the state.
Vaccinated travelers will be allowed into Queensland when 70% of the target population is vaccinated, a target expected to be reached by Nov. 19, but will face restrictions including 14 days of quarantine on arrival.
“I think Queenslanders will acknowledge that that is a sensible and cautious approach to ensure that families can be reunited but the people coming into Queensland will have to be fully vaccinated,” Palaszczuk said. “The faster we are vaccinated, the faster these deadlines will be achieved.”