By Renju Jose
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia on Thursday continued its downward trend of COVID-19 cases, stoking hopes of a faster return to normal, while Qantas Airways pushed back international travel plans by four months as it waits on the country finishing its vaccination drive.
Victoria, the country's second-most populous state, recorded no cases for nearly a week, suggesting the most recent outbreak in Melbourne has been contained, prompting authorities to flag easing of more restrictions soon.
"With six days of zero cases, with the number of active cases falling each day... we can be quite positive about making some announcements tomorrow," state Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters when asked about lifting of curbs on gatherings.
Queensland state said it would open its borders to residents of Melbourne from Saturday, following South Australia which plans to lift its border restrictions from Friday.
New South Wales state reported no new local cases for the 39th day in a row as it looks to relax curbs on dancing at weddings, singing at indoor venues and gatherings at home from Friday.
Australia closed its international borders in last March except for citizens and permanent residents, forcing Qantas to ground its international fleet except for repatriation charters and cargo flights.
Qantas had put up international tickets for sale from July 1 but has now deferred those plans to Oct. 31, the company said, with the exception of flights to neighbouring New Zealand.
Australia has allowed New Zealanders entry without quarantine requirements from end of last year but that was temporarily revoked by some states on Wednesday after a new cluster emerged in its largest city of Auckland.
Border closures and speedy contact tracing have helped Australia keep its COVID-19 numbers relatively low. It has recorded just under 29,000 COVID-19 cases and 909 deaths since the pandemic began.
(Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)