States almost set for resumption of travel

International flights from Australia are returning, as the nation's COVID-19 vaccination rate rises.
Camera IconInternational flights from Australia are returning, as the nation's COVID-19 vaccination rate rises. Credit: AAP

Melburnians are enjoying their first weekend out of lockdown, as the nation's airlines prepare for a return to international travel.

The Victorian capital exited its sixth - and final - lockdown on Friday after the state reached vaccination targets, with residents now able to leave home for any reason.

The state registered 1750 new local COVID-19 cases on Saturday and nine deaths.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the multiple lockdowns, which had contributed to Melbourne having the longest lockdown of any city in the world, were a thing of the past.

Meanwhile, Qantas has unveiled its planned flight schedule, once international borders reopen on November 1.

Those to New York and London will begin that day, while flights to destinations such as Singapore, Fiji and Johannesburg have been brought forward.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has welcomed the return of more Qantas routes but says government support to the airline industry will cease if flights returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Victoria's decision to remove quarantine requirements for vaccinated travellers will also see the national carrier bring forward flights from Melbourne to London and Singapore in November.

Canberra is in discussions with Singapore to establish two-way travel without restrictions.

That comes with Premier Peter Gutwein flagging plans for Tasmania to reopen its borders.

Travellers will be able to come into the island state from December 15, which is expected to be when it reaches a vaccination rate of 90 per cent.

NSW registered 332 new cases on Saturday, as the state reported instances of virus transmission in bars and gyms.

Some 24 infections were diagnosed in the ACT as retailers traded through their first weekend since August 12 albeit amid distancing precautions.

Restrictions eased in the capital on Friday, a week earlier than planned, while free travel will be back on the cards between Victoria and the ACT from November 1, in line with arrangements between Victoria and NSW.

The nation's latest vaccine statistics show the double-dose immunisation rate has hit 71.7 per cent for people 16 and over.

The ACT continues to lead the way for the most-vaccinated jurisdiction, with 86 per cent of residents having had two doses, while NSW is not far behind on 83.7 per cent.

The two states furthest behind in the vaccine rollout are Western Australia and Queensland.

The Sunshine State was at 59.4 per cent of its over-16s fully vaccinated on Saturday morning, while WA passed the 60 per cent mark around lunchtime.

WA Health Minister Roger Cook said the state would also surpass 60 per cent for everyone over 12 within days.

"Enough of the language of us being laggards, we're doing great work in Western Australia and now we need to continue to do more," he said.

Asked if the state's border would be open by December 25, Mr Cook said WA didn't want a situation where it reopened too early and found itself having to close back down over Christmas.

"We don't want to spoil Christmas we don't want to make dangerous decisions," he said.

"We want to keep West Australians safe."

Get the latest news from in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails