Australia

Thousands travel between states as NSW-Victoria border fully reopens after four-month closure

Passengers disembark the first Qantas flight from Melbourne following the lifting of border restrictions at Sydney Airport, Monday, 23 November, 2020. Source: AAP

Planes, trains and automobiles have started streaming between Sydney and Melbourne as border closures and social restrictions are relaxed in Victoria and NSW.

Thousands of Australians are on the move as states strip away border closures and social restrictions.

Cars have started streaming into Victoria now that NSW has reopened its border after more than four months.

Flights between Sydney and Melbourne, the world's second-busiest air route, have also resumed.

Victoria has now gone 24 days without a coronavirus infection or death.

A DJ helped people celebrate when the checkpoint at Albury was removed overnight.

From Monday, Victorians no longer have to wear masks outdoors and residents are allowed to host 15 people in their homes.

The cap on outdoor gatherings at parks and beaches will increase to 50 people and up to 150 will be allowed at weddings.

Small hospitality businesses will be allowed up to 50 customers - one person for every two square metres - and larger venues will be able to host up to 300 people.

South Australians are also enjoying eased restrictions earlier than planned.

The premier has scrapped lockdown restrictions after health authorities realised an infected hospitality worker lied to contact tracers.

Even so, the state's health officer has no regrets about imposing the harsh rules.

NSW has become the first jurisdiction to open to all states and territories.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is confident in her decision and hopes the state's borders will not be closed again in her lifetime.

However, Queensland remains closed to people from Sydney.

Anthony Albanese takes a selfie with the welcoming entertainment as passengers disembark the first Qantas flight from Melbourne after NSW reopened its border.
Anthony Albanese takes a selfie with the welcoming entertainment as passengers disembark the first Qantas flight from Melbourne after NSW reopened its border.
AAP

Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, who flew from Sydney to Melbourne on Monday, was loath to criticise the Queensland premier.

"No one wants to see restrictions in place but restrictions have made Queenslanders safe," he told reporters.

"I want to be able to travel and I want Australians to travel. I know Annastacia Palaszczuk does too."

Qantas boss Alan Joyce says Queensland has set the bar too high in terms of its border restrictions.

The airline is also working with the federal government on international flights to increase the number of Australians allowed to come back each week.

The weekly cap is currently set at 6000 passengers.

Federal Tourism and Trade Minister Simon Birmingham is sympathetic to NSW's call to be able to open up a third of the state's hotel quarantine beds to international students.

But he insists the priority has to remain on returning Australians.

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Ms Berejiklian understands the Commonwealth's position, but points out her state welcomes back more passengers each week than all other states combined.

Since the pandemic started, NSW has catered for more than 100,000 returned Australians, whereas other states combined have only received a small fraction of that figure.

And from Monday in NSW choirs of up to 30 people are also allowed to sing outside and audiences and congregations may participate in the singing, but anyone 12 years or older must wear a mask.

In person vists are also resuming for the 12,866 prisoners in NSW jails who have not had any visitors since the system was locked down in March.

There have been 145,000 video chats but from now on visitors will be able to see inmates in person with restrictions including: temperature checks, masks, a limit of two visitors with physical contact limited to fist or elbow bumps.

There have been no recorded cases of community transmission of COVID-19 in NSW for 15 days and Victoria has been COVID free for 23 consecutive days.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction's restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at https://sbs.com.au/coronavirus

Please check the relevant guidelines for your state or territory: NSW,VictoriaQueenslandWestern AustraliaSouth AustraliaNorthern TerritoryACTTasmania. 

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