Victoria and Queensland will both shut their borders to Greater Sydney on Sunday night in a huge blow for domestic aviation.
Both states unveiled near-identical rules, which will see residents granted an extra 24 hours to get back and be allowed to home quarantine for 14 days, rather than be isolated in a supervised hotel. Both WA and SA have toughened their rules, too, with other states likely to follow.
It follows NSW announcing a further 30 cases in the Avalon cluster on Sunday, with 28 confirmed to be linked to other known infections, and the other two likely to be connected. Significantly, all are located in the Northern Beaches area, giving hope the outbreak can be brought under control.
On Sunday morning, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed the state will effectively ban entrants from Greater Sydney and the Central Coast from midnight on Sunday.
Premier Andrews called the situation in Sydney “deteriorating” and highlighted the “missing links” in the chain of transmission.
The rules put in place earlier in the weekend saw Victoria introduce a traffic light system for anyone entering from NSW.
Those from low-risk “green zones”, currently most of regional NSW, can enter freely; those from “orange zones”, currently Greater Sydney, are encouraged to take a test on arrival; while those from “red zones”, now including the Northern Beaches, cannot enter at all.
Yet from midnight on Sunday, all of Greater Sydney and the Central Coast will be upgraded to a red zone.
That means non-Victorian residents travelling from those areas face hotel quarantine from the Sunday deadline. However, returning Victorians who cross the border can home quarantine if they come back before midnight Monday – a day later – but afterwards must quarantine in a hotel.
Then, on Sunday afternoon, Queensland followed suit with almost identical rules.
The key difference is the cut off points will be 1am (not midnight) on Monday (for non-residents) and 1am on Tuesday (not midnight) for residents to avoid hotel quarantine.
The two states also seemingly define Greater Sydney slightly differently, with Queensland considering the area all of Sydney, and south down to Wollongong, Wollondilly, the Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury and the Central Coast.
It comes as WA reinstated an even harsher “hard border” with all of NSW on Saturday, meaning everyone from that state will be turned away at the border.
“This is not what anyone wanted just days before Christmas,” WA Premier McGowan said. “It is clear NSW will record further cases in the coming days.”
He had previously criticised what he termed NSW’s “whack-a-mole” strategy of preferring contact tracing at the apparent expense of larger lockdowns.
Currently, only the Northern Beaches area of the city is living under March-style stay at home rules.
Finally, SA has introduced 14-day quarantine for anyone entering from Greater Sydney, from midnight Sunday.
“My message to South Australians is with this increasing cluster in New South Wales… you must be very mindful about getting tested,” said SA’s chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier.
“I think we can feel quietly positive about what’s happening in New South Wales, but we do need to put things in place to keep South Australia safe.”
The escalating situation is a massive blow for domestic aviation, which was on the brink of a Christmas renaissance.
Late last month, Australian Aviation reported how Virgin Australia recorded its largest day of sales since COVID, shortly after Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said her state would open to Sydney.
The business added that more than 60 per cent of flights booked were for travel in the lead up to and during Christmas, with searches for routes between NSW and Queensland doubling.