Victorians living near the New South Wales border will soon be allowed to travel between the states, while Queensland continues to isolate itself from the rest of the country.
The NSW/Queensland buffer zone will be expanded from 2.5 kilometres to 50 kilometres on Friday to help border communities go about their lives as normal.
A reduction in new COVID-19 cases in Victoria had made it possible to ease restrictions, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Tuesday in Albury.
“Pandemics are far from perfection when it comes to having to make decisions quickly and can I tell you, hand on heart, that one of the most difficult decisions I’ve made personally and the government has made during this pandemic has been closing the NSW-Victorian border. It was a decision of last resort,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters.
“One of the main reasons we didn’t move earlier was because we knew the disruption and angst it would cause people in the border communities.
“You don’t see yourselves as a state border, as two communities, but one.”
Restrictions have been in place on the NSW-Victoria border – and its 55 crossings – since early July.
The new border permit will allow residents within 50 kilometres of the NSW-Victoria border to cross the Murray to obtain goods and services, perform care or attend work or school.
Meanwhile, the Queensland government will keep state borders shut for least a month amid continuing concern about community transmission of COVID-19 in southern states.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the borders will stay closed after a Victorian man who had coronavirus was caught trying to enter the state and two more local cases were reported.
“We said we would review it at the end of the each month and there has been no advice from the chief health officer to change what we are doing,” she said on Tuesday.
The premier said chief health officer Jeannette Young wanted to see southern states, and NSW in particular, go through two 14-day COVID-19 incubation cycles without any new cases of community transmission.
“I’ll tell you what we’re looking for – to keep Queenslanders safe, that’s what we’re looking for,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
Friday’s national cabinet meeting looms as a major showdown on interstate travel restrictions, with progress hinging on the advice of an expert medical panel.
Mr Morrison will seek agreement from premiers and chief ministers on coronavirus hotspot definitions, which would guide border closures.
But he’s promised to go it alone on the new definition if the states don’t sign up.