Victoria has further relaxed its border restrictions so that only people travelling from one Sydney LGA are now barred from entering the state.
A further nine NSW areas have been downgraded from red to orange zones, meaning a permit will be automatically granted but travellers will have to undertake a COVID test on arrival.
Most of regional NSW and all of greater Sydney has also been designated a green zone that allows travel without undertaking a COVID test.
The move comes days after Victorian Premier Dan Andrews initially downgraded 25 of the 35 Sydney LGAs and also after Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce attacked the hypocrisy of allowing tennis players to enter the state while banning Sydneysiders.
“That is a very significant step,” Premier Andrews said on Friday morning.
“It’s based on public health advice and will be welcome news, I’m sure, for many, many people who want to get home and have had a summer that has been somewhat disrupted, and in some cases more than that.”
The newly deemed orange zones are Blacktown City, Burwood, Canada Bay City, Canterbury-Bankstown, Fairfield City, Inner West, Liverpool City, Parramatta City and Strathfield Municipality.
Only Cumberland in Sydney’s western suburbs remains a red zone.
On New Year’s Day, Victoria enforced tough 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 NSW was designated as a “Red Zone” and the Northern Beaches a “Hot Zone”, banning most travel.
When states first closed their borders to Greater Sydney, Premier Gladys 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.
Earlier this week, Australian Aviation reported how Sydney Airport’s domestic passenger traffic more than doubled in December as all state borders briefly opened to NSW.
In a statement to the ASX, the business revealed the numbers travelling through were 659,000, up from 308,000 in November.
However, that figure would likely have been far higher had the ‘Northern Beaches cluster’ of COVID cases not caused states to reimpose restrictions just before Christmas. The positive domestic figures were also still down 71.9 per cent from December 2019.