Victorians defying NSW Government advice to stay out of Sydney say it’s safe to travel and that they won’t change their plans, despite a spike in coronavirus infections across Melbourne.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has told travellers from Victorian “hotspots” not to come and urged accommodation providers in her state to turn visitors from Melbourne away.
Amid mounting tensions about the border between Australia’s two most populous states, many people arriving at Sydney Airport on flights from Melbourne on Tuesday were undeterred.
Melbourne resident Yu Zhao Zhang arrived in Sydney on Tuesday dressed in head-to-toe protective gear.
He said he knew risks were increasing but didn’t want to cancel.
“I saw the ‘reconsider travel’ warning, but I had already booked my ticket,” he said.
He said if his hotel decided to turn him away because of where he’s come from, he could stay at a friend’s house.
Businesses are also squeezing in travel in case the borders close.
Rob Langton came to Sydney for the day for real-estate work. Before the pandemic, he would travel to Sydney or Brisbane at least once a week.
After three months of non-travel, his business resumed trips to Sydney last week.
“We didn’t know what was going to happen with the border potentially closing this week or next week,” Mr Langton said.
“We wanted to get here before anything changed between Victoria and New South Wales.”
Melbourne student Taiping Ning said the seats next to her on her Tuesday flight were empty.
Despite outbreaks in Melbourne, Ms Ning chose to continue with her travel plans and a visit to her mother and brother.
“I have to visit my mother because I’m on holiday right now, and in a month’s time, I have to go to school and have no time.”
She said she was ‘prepared to cancel’.
People yet to travel say they’re going ahead, but are taking safety measures.
Hayley Thrupp is originally from Sydney but now lives in Melbourne’s CBD where she works in the legal sector.
She hasn’t seen her parents, who live in Penrith in Western Sydney, since Christmas and booked last week to come to Sydney on July 6 on a Jetstar flight.
She said she’s not near any hotspots and is isolating at home for two weeks before travelling and “taking all the precautions”.
When she arrives in Sydney she will only stay at her parents’ place and so in effect will be self-isolating again.
“I booked the flights last week and then the news of this spike came out. I’ve been monitoring the news over the last couple of days to see if there’s any border closures.”
Although events continue to unfold around the NSW-Victorian border, she said she is prepared to cancel if need be but doesn’t think that will be the case.
“Reading the information at this stage, I think it is still safe enough to travel,” she said.
“I’m pretty confident that I’m not going to cancel unless the government advice changes.”
Travel downturn as airlines push back
The Melbourne-Sydney route is one of the world’s busiest: in 2018 it was rated the world’s second most popular route with 54,102 departures annually.
More than 9 million people usually travel the route each year.
The latest Sydney Airport figures from May showed domestic travel nationally was down 97.2 per cent on May 2019, a drop from 2.217 million passengers to just 62,000.
In the year to date, overall domestic traffic has dropped 49.2 per cent.
The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communication reported that for April, 17,100 passengers travelled Sydney-Melbourne, a drop of 97.7 per cent compared with April 2019.
The Victorian spike comes as airlines reinstate flights and push for domestic travellers to return to the air.
Virgin Australia said it continues to review customer demand and has this week doubled the frequency of flights on the Sydney-Melbourne route from daily to twice daily.
A Qantas spokesperson said the airline’s domestic capacity had dropped to 5 per cent of pre-coronavirus levels at the height of the pandemic.
They said that had increased to 15 per cent this month and would reach 40 per cent in July.
Qantas is increasing its return Sydney-Melbourne flights from five weekly to 46 by the end of the month; Jetstar is rising by seven to 21.
The spokesperson said it had factored in any change to border restrictions.
“We’re monitoring government announcements regarding changes to travel restrictions, and if a customer’s flight is cancelled we’ll notify them directly with their options,” he said.