NSW has another 4916 COVID cases and seven deaths, as the first international tourists arrive in Sydney after Australia’s borders reopened to the world after a two-year closure due to the pandemic.
Monday’s cases were down 666 from Sunday and there were 14 fewer deaths.
There are 1288 patients in hospital with the virus in NSW, 74 of them in intensive care.
International travellers began arriving in Sydney early on Monday – for the first time without the need to quarantine in more than two years.
However, they were confronted by the shutdown of all trains on the Sydney network, with industrial action benching intercity trains from Newcastle, Central Coast, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra.
The NSW government and the union are blaming each other for the commuter chaos. But Prime Minister Scott Morrison blamed the unions, saying the Rail Tram and Bus Union had marred an important milestone for Australia’s tourism industry.
“The union movement has decided to really pull the rug our from under that on our first day back,” he told Sydney radio 2GB.
“International travel is opening up from today and the unions welcome them with a train strike. I mean, this is not how things should be done,” he said.
The first of 56 international flights of vaccinated travellers touched down in Sydney from the US just after 6am. It was greeted by an elated Federal Tourism Minister Dan Tehan, holding a stuffed koala, Vegemite and Tim Tams.
“It’s a great day, a great day to be out here,” he told ABC TV.
“It is fantastic to be fully reopened to the rest of the world … it is party time,” he said.
Mr Tehan is confident the border reopening will prompt “a very strong rebound in the tourism market”, and rejuvenate an industry that employs 660,000 people.
Meanwhile, testing of NSW schoolchildren will move to an on-demand basis from next week as the state further relaxes restrictions.
Students had been required to be tested twice a week. From next week, they will require a test only if they have symptoms or if necessary for other reasons.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Sunday parents would receive eight rapid antigen tests per student, to be distributed in two drops.
“The packs are there for families and staff to use at their discretion for their own peace of mind, for example, when a student is feeling unwell with a sore throat or cough, or if family members are sick,” he said.
Teachers and early childhood staff will also receive the free tests.
NSW has recently scrapped QR code check-ins and the ban on singing and dancing in hospitality venues, as part of a broader push to relax restrictions after daily case numbers fell.
The requirement to wear face masks will mostly end on Friday. They will remain mandatory only on public transport, at airports and on planes and in hospitals, aged and disability care centres.