WA finally opened its border to NSW and Victoria earlier today, allowing arrivals from the eastern states to enter without having to self-isolate.
The first eligible flights to land in Perth were a Qantas 737-838, VH-XZI msn 39364, which departed Sydney at 7:21am AEDT as flight QF575 and arrived at 8:48am AWST; and Qantas A330-303, VH-QPF msn 0595, which departed Melbourne at 10:31am AEDT as flight QF773 and landed at 10:56am AWST.
The lifting of restrictions was only confirmed by WA Premier Mark McGowan on Monday after receiving assurances from the state’s chief health officer.
“It is very pleasing to know that no further cases [in NSW] have been identified over the last five days,” Premier McGowan said.
“Therefore, with no additional cases in New South Wales over the last 30 days, the chief health officer has recommended that the risk of importation of COVID-19 from New South Wales is now very low.
“As a result, it is safe to continue our plans as announced, to transition New South Wales to the next classification. This will occur for both Victoria and New South Wales, effective from midnight tonight.”
Premier McGowan also said arrivals from SA would be allowed to enter the state but would have to quarantine for 14 days after last month’s cluster of cases and short lockdown.
“South Australia have now gone nine days with no community cases,” he said. “After extensive testing and quarantining of contacts, South Australia now has a 14-day rolling average of less than one case. As a result, effective from midnight on Thursday night … South Australia will move to the low-risk category.”
The decision is dependent on there being no further outbreaks.
WA’s move to open is surprising given the state initially said it was to opt-out of a national cabinet-agreed plan to restart interstate travel by Christmas.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison even backed the resistance, arguing that WA has “a very different border and a very different economy than most of the other states and territories where these decisions have been made”.
“Not everyone has to get on the bus for the bus to leave the station. But it is important the bus leaves the station,” said PM Morrison.
It comes after flights between Sydney and Melbourne resumed on a commercial basis on 23 November, after being restricted for 137 days, while Queensland lifted restrictions to Greater Sydney and Victoria on 1 December.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk made the decision to open up on 1 December following Sydney and Victoria recording a month without any ‘community transmission’ of COVID.
Qantas and Jetstar estimated 9,000 passengers were booked to travel on the first day of opening from Sydney and Melbourne to Queensland. The airline group now says it will operate more than 420 return flights per week across 19 routes between Queensland and both Sydney and Melbourne.
This compares with around 40 return flights per week when borders were closed. It also means Sydney-Brisbane and Melbourne-Brisbane have returned to their pre-COVID position in the top three busiest air routes in the country – effectively re-establishing the so-called Golden Triangle.