Victoria’s health minister Martin Foley has said it’s “unlikely” the state’s hard border with NSW will open until the end of the month.
“This is a fast-moving, silent virus that pays no respect to interstate borders,” Minister Foley said on Wednesday. “The goal of the hard border with NSW is to minimise the risk of the virus reseeding back into Victoria.”
On New Year’s Day, Victoria enforced the tougher restrictions with NSW, which ban even returning citizens from coming home unless granted an exception. On Tuesday, it was revealed 2,798 requests had been lodged but only 57 granted.
Victoria’s doubling down in its position despite declining case numbers in NSW and pressure from Prime Minster Scott Morrison.
On Tuesday, the PM said he spoke to Premier Daniel Andrews about creating a “better pathway home” for those stranded across the border.
Initially, Victoria only closed its border to Greater Sydney and surrounding areas, but that was extended to the whole state at the turn of 2021.
The state of New South Wales is now designated as a “Red Zone” and the Northern Beaches a “Hot Zone”. Victorians visiting cannot return to Victoria unless granted an exception which can be for the following reasons:
- Going to a funeral;
- Returning home for health, wellbeing, care or compassionate reasons;
- Emergency relocation;
- Having not been in a part of NSW since it was classed as a red or hot zone;
- Caring for an animal on the other side of the border;
- ADF members undertaking military transfers.
When states first closed their borders to Greater Sydney, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian suggested it was not “proportionate”.
Talking to the press, Premier Berejiklian said, “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.”
Gladys used the press conference to point out that NSW has been accommodating the vast bulk of returning Australians from overseas.
“We are doing our bit in terms of bringing home your travellers with 45 per cent of people coming through from other states.
“Yes, of course, I’m concerned by what’s happening in New South Wales. But every response has to be proportionate to the risk.
“It impacts not just people in New South Wales, but people in your home states that may not have been reunited with family or friends or significant others for a long period of time.
“It is a very emotional time of the year.”
She also pointed out that NSW only closed its border to Victoria when they were recording 140 COVID cases a day.
The revelation came on the day WA premier Mark McGowan urged Prime Minister Scott Morrison to recall national cabinet to discuss federal border arrangements in light of apparent new mutations of COVID in both the UK and South Africa.
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.