SYDNEY, AAP – Hundreds of international travellers arriving at Sydney airport are having emotional reunions with family and friends as the border to NSW reopens in a landmark day for the state’s COVID-19 response.

Nearly 600 days after Australia closed its international borders, planes flew into Kingsford Smith International Airport early on Monday with passengers being offered Tim Tams and native Australian flowers as they emerged from customs.

QF12 from Los Angeles touched down in Sydney at 6am with no border or quarantine restrictions for incoming passengers who are fully vaccinated.

One man told reporters coming home was “a big deal” after being locked out for so long.

“So, we’re a bit overwhelmed and we just can’t wait to see our families. It will be amazing,” he said.

One woman said she was returning to see her father who was in hospital.

“I haven’t been able to see him for two years and they wouldn’t let me come in any earlier than today – so I got the first flight back,” she said.

Initial flights are limited to Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families and parents.

Fully vaccinated passengers do not have to quarantine in a hotel or at home, paving the way for Australians stranded overseas to be able to return for Christmas.

QF1 (Sydney to London via Darwin) will be the first Qantas International flight to depart out of Sydney at 6.30pm.

Qantas will operate international flights between Sydney and London and Los Angeles from, with flights to other destinations in coming weeks.

Qantas chief excutive Alan Joyce said many of the national carrier’s international crew had been stood down since March 2020.

“We are back in the air earlier than anticipated thanks to the millions of people who turned out in droves to get vaccinated,” he said.

Meanwhile, fully jabbed people in NSW can from Monday start travelling freely between Greater Sydney and the regions.

The lifting of intrastate travel restrictions will allow families to reunite for the first time in months and marks the return of regional tourism.

“For the first time in a long time, grandparents will be able to visit grandkids … many people will be reunited,” Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Sunday.

He is confident it’s safe to allow Sydneysiders back into the rest of the state, with double-dose vaccination coverage nearing 88 per cent.

As of Saturday, 83.6 per cent of eligible NSW residents aged years and over 16 had received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine and 87.7 per cent were fully vaccinated.

Monday will also see the state’s vaccine booster program open to adults who received their second jab six months ago or longer.

Pfizer doses will be available from pharmacies, GP clinics and state-run hubs across the state.

Nationally, rapid antigen tests are also now available.

The changes come as NSW continues to see virus case numbers and hospitalisations fall, after lockdown rules began to be eased three weeks ago.

Some 177 people were diagnosed with COVID-19 statewide in the 24 hours to 8pm on Saturday, 59 fewer than the day before and the lowest daily tally in more than three months.

Now 340 people are in hospital with the virus, including 78 in intensive care.

One death was announced on Sunday – an unvaccinated woman in her 70s from southwestern Sydney.