Victoria has opened its border to most of Greater Sydney after downgrading 25 of 35 local government areas from high-risk “red zones” to lower-risk “amber zones”.
The decision means people travelling from those safer areas – which includes the Northern Beaches and Blue Mountains – will be automatically granted a permit when they apply but will have to take a COVID test.
On New Year’s Day, Victoria enforced the tougher restrictions with NSW, which banned even returning citizens from coming home unless granted an exemption. It since transitioned to a new traffic light-style system where areas are graded based on risk.
Initially, the entire state of New South Wales was designated as a “Red Zone” and the Northern Beaches a “Hot Zone”, banning most travel.
The 10 Sydney LGAs that remain red zones as of Monday, 18 January are Blacktown City, Burwood, Canada Bay City, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield City, Inner West, Liverpool City, Parramatta City and Strathfield Municipality.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said those areas would be reviewed on a daily basis.
“I think it unlikely that all 10 would flip to orange at the same time,” Premier Andrews said. “It may be that … one or two may change, and as soon as we can update people based on public health advice, and again, that further extensive work to determine exactly what the risk profile is, as soon as that changes, they will be designated red for not a moment longer than they need to be.
“It may be that some of them come off in a few days. Others may take longer. I know that that is frustrating and challenging not to be able to provide a definite answer on that, but again, you’ve got to be guided by the best public health advice, and that’s exactly what we’ve got in the public health team as led by the chief health officer.”
Premier Andrews also revealed he had texted his counterpart Gladys Berejiklian prior to making a public announcement. It follows Premier Berejiklian previously hinting at a lack of notice for last month’s changes.
“Again, we apologise and we express our absolute regret that this virus and the outbreaks out of hotel quarantine in New South Wales and in Queensland has disrupted the summer of many Victorians,” said Premier Andrews. “But the alternative … would be me ignoring the advice of the chief health officer and I don’t think that that would be a good thing to do.”
When states first closed their borders to Greater Sydney, Premier Berejiklian suggested it was not “proportionate”.
“What I’m saying to my colleagues around the country is please think about the heartbreak and please think about the facts when you’re making these decisions,” Premier Berejiklian said.
The closure of borders to Sydney has been an enormous blow for domestic aviation and came only a week after almost all movement restrictions were lifted across the country.
In late November, 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.