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Australia is bordering on open: These states are leading the way

The Robe Obelisk in South Australia - not far from the Victorian border. Photo: Getty
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The first wave of the coronavirus seems to largely be behind Australia and, state-by-state, the country is beginning to become whole again.

Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales never closed their borders when the coronavirus took hold from mid-March, beyond the standard non-essential travel bans.

However, other states and territories took swift action.

The Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania all implemented border closures in March and April.

But finally, some states are beginning to consider interstate visitors.

South Australia

South Australia will reopen its borders on July 20, clearing the way for an influx of interstate travellers as it lifts COVID-19 controls.

Premier Steven Marshall says the state is still finalising legal issues surrounding the change, but doesn’t want to block the movement of people from states that don’t pose a health risk.

The change will remove the need for anyone coming from interstate to quarantine for two weeks.

Depending on the outcome of legal advice, SA could move even earlier in relation to some states, lifting its measures either later this month or early next month.

Those jurisdictions could include the Northern Territory, Tasmania and Western Australia, where efforts to contain the virus have been equally as successful as those in SA.

“All three jurisdictions have done exceptionally well with managing coronavirus, so there’s opportunity for us to consider alleviating those requirements to quarantine for 14 days,” Police Commissioner Grant Steven said.

“If the advice allows us to do so, that’s what we’ll be looking to do.”

Tasmania

Tasmania is clear of active coronavirus cases and will likely reopen its border to mainland Australia in late July.

Premier Peter Gutwein announced on Friday the island state had reached the significant milestone more than three months after recording its first infection.

Mr Gutwein is hopeful of making a call on whether to lift border restrictions on June 26, when the next stage of state restrictions are eased.

Wineglass Bay in Tasmania

“I’d expect that we could look at a date towards the end of July,” he told reporters, adding that he wants to see how the virus tracks in other jurisdictions.

“The one thing I will not do is open our borders if public health advice is not to do so.”

Queensland

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday told the National Cabinet meeting he welcomed the reopening of Queensland’s borders on July 10.

Stage three of the state’s coronavirus recovery roadmap has always planned for interstate travel to be permitted on that date, however, it is conditional on Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young’s advice.

Despite weeks of pressure from federal government members, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has refused to buckle, saying she’s keeping Queenslanders safe.

Currently, school students, workers and freight drivers can enter the state without an issue, but Queensland remains closed to anyone else because of the virus.

Ms Palaszczuk has previously flagged a potential September re-opening, however, this is under a monthly review and could be pushed forward.

Western Australia

A Black Lives Matter protester in Melbourne testing positive for COVID-19 shows Western Australia’s continued border closure is the right decision, the premier says.

Mark McGowan has reiterated he will only bring down the border with the east when it is safe to do so.

“I think what’s occurred in Victoria overnight shows our approach has been correct,” he said on Thursday.

“We have opened up our economy within WA to a far greater degree by a country mile than any other state in Australia. That’s got far more people back to work.”

Nine more people recovered from coronavirus overnight in WA, leaving just 21 active cases in the state.

They are in hotel quarantine, including seven locals, one from interstate and 13 from overseas.

Northern Territory

The Northern Territory is in the “final stretch” of isolation before it reopens its borders, after they were shut nearly three months ago due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Once that happens, the NT Government plans to sell itself as the “safest place in the country” and attract extra domestic tourists who can replace the 300,000 international tourists a year it has lost for now.

In the meantime, a voucher scheme is available for locals who go on trips around the Territory.

More than 26,000 vouchers worth $200 each will be available from July 1, to put towards a tourism experience, tour, accommodation, hire car or recreational fishing charter, so long as they match the spend with their own money, adding up to a $400 experience.

The aim of the $5.2 million scheme is to help keep NT tourism operators, which represent one of the Territory’s biggest employers, to stay afloat, along with hospitality venues hardest hit by the pandemic until borders can safely reopen.

The winter and dry season in the NT is when tourism and hospitality businesses are usually their busiest.

“We are in the final stretch here in the Northern Territory leading up to borders opening,” Chief Minister Michael Gunner told reporters on Thursday.