Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Oct. 31

Australia eased its international border restrictions on Monday for the first time in the pandemic, allowing some of its vaccinated public to travel freely and many families to reunite, sparking emotional embraces at Sydney's airport.

Loved ones reunite as Australia reopens international border for 1st time in pandemic

An international traveller is embraced after arriving at Sydney Airport in the wake of coronavirus disease border restrictions easing in Australia on Monday. (Jaimi Joy/Reuters)

The latest:

Australia eased its international border restrictions on Monday for the first time in the pandemic, allowing some of its vaccinated public to travel freely and many families to reunite, sparking emotional embraces at Sydney's airport.

After 18 months of some of the world's strictest coronavirus border policies that banned citizens from coming back into the country and leaving it, unless granted an exemption, millions of Australians in Victoria, New South Wales and Canberra are now free to travel.

A flight by flag carrier Qantas Airways from Los Angeles touched down in Sydney at 6 a.m., Australia's biggest airline said, the first in months to let COVID-19 vaccinated Australians walk off a plane without quarantining.

International travelers also arrived in Sydney via Singapore Airlines early on Monday.

An international traveller, the first to arrive in Australia since the pandemic started in March 2020, is seen at Sydney Airport on Monday. (Jaimi Joy/Reuters)

Australia's treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Monday that the travel changes would immediately aid the economy.

"It's a day for celebration — the fact that Australians can move more freely in and out of our country without home quarantine, if they're double-vaccinated," Frydenberg said.

Television and social media footage showed tearful family reunions, with strict travel rules previously prohibiting many people from attending significant events, including weddings and funerals.

The relaxation of travel rules is tied to rising vaccination rates, with more than 80 per cent of people aged 16 and older in Australia's two most populous states, New South Wales and Victoria, as well as the capital territory fully vaccinated.

Australians and permanent residents living abroad may now return, with data from the Department of Foreign Affairs showing about 47,000 people are hoping to do so.

A woman, left, is embraced by her brother after arriving on a flight from Los Angeles at Sydney Airport on Monday. (Rick Rycroft/The Associated Press)

Most tourists — even vaccinated ones — have to wait to come to Australia, although vaccinated tourists from New Zealand will be allowed in beginning on Monday.

Unvaccinated travellers will still face quarantine restrictions, and all travellers need proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding.

The change in travel rules, however, is not uniform across Australia, as the country's states and territories have differing vaccination rates and health policies.

A COVID-19 testing centre sign is seen at an airport in Sydney on Sunday. (James D. Morgan/Getty Images)

Australia closed its borders at the start of the pandemic and let only a limited number of citizens and permanent residents return from abroad, subject to an exemption and a mandatory 14-day quarantine period in a hotel at their own expense.

But as it switched its COVID-zero pandemic management strategy toward living with the virus through extensive vaccinations, borders are gradually reopening.

While the delta outbreak kept Sydney and Melbourne in lockdowns for months until recently, Australia's COVID-19 cases remain far lower than many comparable countries, with just over 170,500 infections and 1,735 deaths.

What's happening in Canada

WATCH | NACI expands recommendations for booster shots:

NACI expands recommendations for booster shots

7 months ago
Duration 3:21
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has expanded recommendations for who should get a COVID-19 booster shot to include all seniors over the age of 80, Indigenous adults and some front-line health-care workers. Plus, is Canada falling behind by not giving booster shots to all adults?

What's happening around the world

As of Sunday, more than 246.5 million COVID-19 cases had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University's online coronavirus database. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.9 million.

In Asia, South Korea will drop all operating-hour curbs on restaurants and cafes and implement its first vaccine passport for high-risk venues such as gyms, saunas and bars.

People wearing masks crowd a street in Seoul on Saturday. (Heo Ran/Reuters)

In Europe, Russia recorded 40,993  new infections — a new daily high — as much of the country's businesses remain closed in an effort to counter a weeks-long surge in infections.

In the Americas, enrolment in U.S. government-run health insurance program Medicaid during the pandemic grew 16 per cent, with more than 11 million additional sign ups, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said.

In Africa, Tanzania has made up for a slow start and has now administered more than 940,000 vaccine doses so far, according to the World Health Organization Africa Region.

With files from The Associated Press and CBC News

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?