Sydney opens up - a post lockdown travel guide to COVID in Sydney - Rusty Compass travel blog

Sydney opens up - a post lockdown travel guide to COVID in Sydney

| 20 Oct 2021
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20 Oct 2021

Sydney has emerged from its four month lockdown and is hoping to reopen to international travellers soon. Australia’s borders are still closed but there is a sense that the worst of the COVID crisis is passing and that 2022 will be the year international travellers finally return to Australia.

Sydney’s four month COVID lockdown ended on 11 October 2021. The lockdown was caused by an outbreak of the Delta variant in June. Just as a vaccinated world began to emerge from lockdowns and return to more normal routines, the Delta variant took root in unvaccinated Sydney causing the most severe outbreak of the pandemic to date. Australia’s vaccination roll out was bungled by the Federal government leaving a population with little previous exposure to COVID vulnerable to the highly transmissible variant.

Australia’s great COVID vaccination catch-up is on and most lockdown restrictions were lifted on Monday in New South Wales as the state reached two-dose vaccination levels of 80% for adults over 16. That’s an impressive number and Australia is charging ahead towards 90%.

A few months ago, Australia was near the bottom of the list of developed countries for vaccination. Now, many jurisdictions, like Sydney and Canberra, are set to become among the most vaccinated populations in the world.

Melbourne’s Delta outbreak is still causing daily cases of just under 2000, but on the basis of high vaccination rates, the government there plans to commence reopening this week.

Sydney's back!
Photo: Mark Bowyer Sydney's back!


On key measures, Australia has had a good pandemic. Deaths, surely the most important measure, have been as much as 1/30th per capita death rates in places like the UK, US. The situation in the EU hasn't been much better. At time of writing, of a population of 25 million, Australia has lost around 1550 to COVID.

Australia's lockdowns and compliance with restrictions and mask mandates have served the country well. A country that stubbornly refuses to accept the science of climate change has been rewarded for putting science at the centre of its COVID pandemic response.

Many parts of Australia have managed to weather the pandemic so far without serious outbreaks and without long lockdowns.

While Sydney and Melbourne may open to international tourists at the end of 2021 or early in 2022, the picture is less clear in states with no experience of a COVID outbreak and lower vaccination rates. Those states include some of our most popular tourism destinations - Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and Northern Territory.

Australia has backed off national vaccination mandates but states have pushed ahead with them so vaccination is required to visit most places of interest to travellers in Sydney and Melbourne. Rules in other states are still being worked out. Any international traveller arriving in Australia will be expected to provide proof of double-vaccination.

In this Rusty Compass travel guide to the COVID pandemic (video above), I jumped on my bicycle for a look at Sydney, emerging from lockdown on a stunning mid-spring Sunday. Our ride takes me past many city icons and we take the opportunity to think about Australia’s impressive COVID accomplishments and the lessons of the pandemic.

Enjoy the ride through Sydney!

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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