3rd December 2020

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States strip away borders and restrictions

Thousands of Australians are on the move as states strip away coronavirus-induced border closures and social restrictions.

Cars lined up overnight as NSW reopened its border with Victoria after 137 days.

Dozens of flights between Sydney and Melbourne, which was the second busiest air route in the world, resumed on Monday.

Victorians will no longer have to wear masks outdoors as rules are relaxed and people will be allowed to host 15 people in their homes.

Outdoor gatherings at parks and beaches will increase to 50 people and weddings will increase to 150 people.

Small hospitality businesses will be allowed up to 50 customers – one person for every two square metres – and larger venues will be able to host up to 300 people.

South Australians are enjoying eased restrictions earlier than planned.

Even so, the state’s health officer says she has no regrets about ordering a lockdown after a worker who contracted the virus lied to contact tracers.

NSW has become the first jurisdiction to open to all states and territories.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is confident in her decision and hopes the state’s borders will not be closed again in her lifetime.

However, Queensland remains closed to people from Sydney.

Qantas boss Alan Joyce says Queensland has set the bar too high in terms of its border restrictions.

The airline is also working with the federal government on international flights to increase the number of Australians who are allowed to come back each week.

The weekly cap is currently set at 6000 passengers.

Federal Tourism and Trade Minister Simon Birmingham is sympathetic to NSW’s call to be able to open up a third of the states’ hotel quarantine capability to international students.

But he insists the priority has to remain on returning Australians.

“Getting those Australians home, particularly those who might be in challenging or distressed circumstances, is a genuine priority,” he told Sky News.

“But if we can see fast enough movement in terms of the bringing down of that list of returning Australians then I would like nothing more than to see international students able to safely come through.”

Ms Berejiklian understands the federal government’s position, but points out her state welcomes back more passengers each week than all other states combined.

“So all I’m suggesting is next year after Christmas and New Year’s, let’s consider having a proportion out of that 3000 to international students,” she told reporters.

“A lot of our universities will actually have to axe jobs if we don’t, especially regional universities. I don’t want to see that happen.”

Since the pandemic started, NSW has catered for more than 100,000 returned Australians, whereas other states combined have only received a small fraction of that figure.

More broadly, Senator Birmingham said it was possible international travel could be back on the cards next year, but resuming services in the first half of 2021 would be challenging.


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