There were excited scenes at Brisbane airport early on Tuesday as Queensland opened its borders to Victorians and Sydney-siders for the first time in months.
Among the first off a plane from Sydney bright and early was Matt Jacovi, who was finally able to reunite with his wife Ashley and daughter Payten.
“It’s been a long time,” an emotional Mr Jacovi said after greeting his family.
Another man, who gave his name only as Chris, said he was back in Brisbane for work and to see his mother. He had not seen her in eight months.
Elsewhere, the first flight from Melbourne was to be greeted with a baggage carousel loaded with freebie thongs in retailer’s publicity stunt.
Queensland closed its borders to NSW residents in August, although people from outside Sydney were allowed back in from early November. Victorians have had an even longer wait – the Sunshine State barred them in July.
Queensland has some form of border restrictions since the pandemic first struck in late March. But it is easing its measures as other states get the virus under control.
Victoria notched another day without new infections or deaths on Tuesday, and has no active cases. NSW also had no community cases, as well as five more in hotel quarantine.
Victoria will resume taking returned travellers on December 7.
Thousands of southerners are expected to flock to the Sunshine State after COVID-19 hotspot declarations blocking them were finally lifted at 1am on Tuesday.
“Queensland’s health-led economic recovery is set to really take off … and with that will come more jobs for Queenslanders,” Deputy Premier Steven Miles said.
About 6000 people are booked to fly into Brisbane from NSW and Victoria on Tuesday, with numbers expected to soar in coming days. More flights are due at Queensland other airports that have endured long lulls throughout the pandemic, including Cairns.
Virgin Australia will make more than 100,000 seats available to travellers from NSW and Victoria before Christmas, while the Qantas Group had scheduled 410 flights a week, Mr Miles said.
“Tourism industry sources tell me anecdotally they are already experiencing a significant uplift in activity, with one booking agent reporting a 300 per cent increase in the number of calls,” Mr Miles said.
Tourists are expected to spend $3.5 billion in Queensland in the coming month, which Mr Miles said would lead to more businesses reopening and people finding employment.
Queensland has also scrapped the border pass system and work has started to remove the road checkpoints along the southern border.
Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski asked motorists coming from northern NSW to be patient, particularly in the Gold Coast and Goondawindi areas.
Police will continue to randomly intercept vehicles crossing the border to check if any travellers from greater Adelaide are trying to sneak into Queensland.
South Australians must wait another week to learn if a welcome mat will be thrown out to them.
Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young said on Monday she needed more time to assess the ongoing Adelaide virus cluster, which has grown to 33 people.
SA had no new coronavirus cases on Tuesday.
Tasmania welcomes SA visitors
South Australia will be classified as a low-risk area to Tasmania from Thursday, meaning travellers won’t have to quarantine on arrival.
The exception will be people who’ve been to locations identified by SA Health as posing high risk.
Anyone who is quarantining in Tasmania based on time spent in SA will be able to end their quarantine on Thursday.
The day will be a milestone, as Tasmania will be open to all other states and territories for the first time in nine months.