Canberra Airport has potentially entered the row over state border closures by declaring it’s now open for passengers to fly “without restrictions” to and from Sydney and Melbourne.
It added in a surprise media release that travel to Brisbane is also possible “if you obtain permission from the Queensland government”.
Interstate travel in Australia is complicated by different rules between states, territories and the federal government.
NSW, Victoria and the ACT never technically closed their border, however, travel was effectively ruled out because people could only leave their homes for an essential reason such as to buy food, exercise or provide medical help.
Queensland residents returning are also subject to a 14-day quarantine if they’ve travelled from what it terms COVID-19 hotspots, which currently include NSW’s Central Coast and the Northern Beaches.
However, when the national cabinet agreed on a three-step roadmap for reopening the country, interstate travel was tentatively pencilled in for a nationwide return in July.
This plan was thrown into doubt by repeated declarations from Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk that her borders could remain closed until September, leading to a row between states and the federal government.
It culminated in the Prime Minister appearing on a number of breakfast shows last week and repeatedly declaring that border closures were never “the medical advice”, or agreed by the national cabinet.
The lack of demand has led to a huge reduction in commercial flights available, with many previously underwritten by a $165 million federal government package.
These, though, were primarily intended as a way for people to return to their home state after arriving back in Australia from abroad and completing 14-day hotel quarantine.
Canberra’s head of aviation, Michael Thomson, said, “We are very excited people can now fly without restrictions between these state capitals and we look forward to the airlines increasing the number of flights they have on offer in the coming weeks.
“We are maintaining our high levels of hygiene at the airport, social distancing, sanitiser stations, touchless entry to the car parks and terminal, and of course our temperature screening at security.
“Travel to Brisbane is also permitted from Canberra Airport if you obtain permission from the Queensland government, and we hope to be able to open up travel to and from South Australia and Tasmania in the near future.”
Last month, Australian Aviation reported that passengers travelling through Canberra Airport security would have their temperature checked by a thermal imaging camera.
The airport claimed it was the first in Australia to perform the test, and comes after major terminals around the world ramped up coronavirus biosecurity.