Residents and visitors who have been trapped in the last remaining Sydney coronavirus ‘red zone’ will be free to travel, as neighbouring states further relax border bans.
Border restrictions imposed on greater Sydney residents by Victoria, Tasmania, the ACT and South Australia are being wound back, but arrivals to Western Australia must still self-isolate for 14 days.
The Victorian government will reclassify several NSW regions from 6pm on Friday. Most of NSW will become a green zone – the lowest level of restrictions in the state’s coronavirus traffic light system.
Cumberland, the last red zone in NSW, will become an orange zone, while all remaining orange zones will become green.
This means that anyone from NSW with a permit will be allowed to enter Victoria.
Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton said Cumberland would be monitored and further downgraded when safe.
“This is another fantastic step towards a COVIDSafe 2021,” Professor Sutton said.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews was happy about the change but sounded a note of caution for Sydney-siders heading south.
“We’re extremely happy to see the last red zone in NSW be downgraded,” Mr Andrews said.
“We’re reminding people to get tested if they’re returning from an orange zone, so we can continue to enjoy an open and COVID-safe summer.”
Travel into Victoria from an orange zone requires people to self-isolate on their arrival, get tested within 72 hours and remain in quarantine until they receive a negative result.
Travel from a green zone requires people to watch and get tested if they have any symptoms.
Any travel into Victoria from other states and territories still requires a travel permit.
Earlier, state Police Minister Lisa Neville was “extremely confident” about the changes, which will also mean scaling back the police presence at the state’s borders.
Hundreds of Victoria Police officers have been on border duty for weeks, leading to speculation of shortages in other areas.
Thursday’s Bourke Street Mall incident in Melbourne escalated those concerns.
But Ms Neville and Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said police numbers in the Melbourne CBD had been unaffected, noting the incident was sparked by a number plate check.
“I’m very happy that our standing footprint to cover the city is sufficient,” Mr Cornelius said.
“But look … the COVID emergency and the threats posed by COVID to public health and community safety is, in fact, our priority.”
Ms Neville said more than 800 police were involved in hotel quarantine and that would increase to more than 1000.
She said the state government was seeking more Australian Defence Force help with the quarantine program.
Victoria has reached 23 days with no new local virus cases. It has 27 active infections in hotel quarantine, including one new case on Friday.
Tasmania opens to entire country
Border changes are not limited to Victoria, with Tasmania to remove ‘medium risk’ designations from 10 greater Sydney areas on Sunday.
From 12.01am, visitors who have been in the regions will no longer be forced to quarantine, meaning the island state will be open to all of Australia.
Tasmanian public health director Mark Veitch said the decision was based on the absence of NSW community cases in the past fortnight.
“[This is] along with extensive contact tracing and testing undertaken by NSW health authorities,” he said on Friday.
Anyone quarantining in Tasmania because they had been in the 10 regions will be allowed to leave isolation on Sunday.
The areas are Blacktown, Burwood, Canada Bay, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Inner West, Liverpool, Parramatta and Strathfield.
Tasmania has gone 50 days without a COVID-19 infection. Its last case of community transmission in May.
Canberrans released from quarantine
For residents of Canberra, changes will come into effect even sooner.
From 3pm on Friday, the territory will no longer consider Sydney’s Cumberland LGA a COVID-19 hotspot.
Anyone who is still in quarantine because they had visited Cumberland will be released as soon as the change comes into effect.
ACT chief health officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said the restrictions had been challenging and thanked the “strong and vigilant community”.
South Australia hard border opens
From Sunday, South Australia will also reverse its quarantine orders for greater Sydney.
From 12.01am, quarantine-free travel will be allowed from the region into South Australia for the first time in 2021.
Anyone who has travelled through Sydney, Wollongong or the Central Coast will still need to get tested on arrival and self-isolate until they get a negative result.