PM raises travel 'well before' Christmas

Political leaders are looking at overseas travel resuming, as Australia's vaccination rates rise.
Political leaders are looking at overseas travel resuming, as Australia's vaccination rates rise.

Australians could be taking off overseas "well before" Christmas under Scott Morrison's ambitious international travel goal.

The federal government is set to ease tight restrictions on overseas travel when the nation hits 80 per cent vaccination coverage for people aged 16 and above.

Initially, more Australians will be allowed to leave and fully vaccinated citizens will be given more chance to return home.

"That will occur before the end of the year. It could happen well before that," the prime minister told American broadcaster CBS News while in the United States.

Australia has vaccinated 51.8 per cent of its population aged 16 and over, while 76.1 per cent have had a single jab.

Rising immunisation rates have led governments in locked-down areas to chart the course out of harsh restrictions.

In NSW, there were 787 infections and 12 deaths on Monday as the state government outlined detail on easing restrictions when 80 per cent double-dose vaccination rates are reached.

Major freedoms for double-vaccinated people will be granted from around October 25.

Regional travel, home visits and larger event limits are among the measures.

People who are not immunised will be allowed to reintegrate into society on December 1 when further restrictions will be eased.

International passenger arrival caps will likely be lifted from that date.

Melbourne is due to end lockdown when a 70 per cent double-dose rate is reached in late October, before a more significant easing of restrictions around November 5.

Victoria recorded 705 new cases and one death on Monday.

Canberra had its first death during this outbreak and fourth overall, as well as 19 new cases.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr outlined a plan to ease restrictions slightly on Friday before lockdown lifts in three stages from October 15, October 29 and at some point in November or December.

Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania have signalled interstate travel bans to and from states with COVID may continue beyond the 80 per cent threshold.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce warned Queensland risked becoming a hermit kingdom which could be closed to other states while international travel restarted.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the federal government was responsible for lockdowns in Victoria, NSW and the ACT.

"The sort of restrictions that are in place right now, to be very clear, are in place because of Scott Morrison's failure when it comes to the vaccine rollout and when it comes to quarantine," he told reporters.

Mr Morrison said the vaccinations had now hit higher daily increases than peaks in the UK and US.

Australia angered the Chinese government after calling for an international inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 last year.

The prime minister said he had been unable to make a final conclusion on whether the virus jumped to humans from a wildlife wet market or from another source.

"I'm one of many who have been frustrated that we haven't been able, as yet, to get those answers, and we need to persist with those answers," he said.

Australian Associated Press