Australians will be able to travel between all states and territories except Western Australia by Christmas, under an agreement struck between the nation’s leaders on Friday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said national cabinet had also agreed to public health measures to ensure states and territories remain open in 2021.
Western Australia is easing some border restrictions, but travellers from NSW and Victoria must continue to quarantine upon arrival.
“It also is a plan that importantly embeds public health metrics in ensuring that when Australia opens safely it remains open safely,” Mr Morrison said.
“That’s incredibly important.”
On Friday afternoon, South Australia became one of the first to move. Premier Steven Marshall announced that his state’s border would open to Victorians from December 1.
“I know this is a moment that many people have been waiting for, for quite a long period of time,” he said.
The move will bring Victorians into line with people arriving into SA from all other states and territories – with no quarantine or isolation required.
NSW has already said it will open its border to Victoria from Monday (November 23), while Tasmania has designated November 27 as its date.
Elsewhere, the Northern Territory has reopened its borders to people from Victoria’s Mitchell Shire (just north of Melbourne). But the 34 councils in greater Melbourne remain COVID-19 hotspots.
Along with WA, Queensland remains an outlier. Its borders are still closed to Victorians and people from greater Sydney. However, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has already signalled a likely change before Christmas.
WA Premier Mark McGowan confirmed on Friday that his state would move to a “controlled border regime” from midnight – dropping its hard border after a marathon 222 days.
“I know for some people this has been an extremely difficult and long wait,” he said.
The new border rules will apply only to travellers from state and territories deemed very low risk, such as Queensland, Tasmania and SA. They will not have to quarantine, but will have to fill out declarations about virus symptoms and where they have been in the past fortnight.
Visitors from Victoria and NSW will still have to do 14 days quarantine on arrival in WA.
“It is very pleasing to see the rest of Australia do so well in defeating the virus. Victoria has now gone 14 days without community transmission and NSW has now gone seven days without community transmission,” Mr McGowan said.
“It’s worth acknowledging the efforts and success of the Victorian people. What they have achieved, given where they were only recently, has been remarkable. And they have succeeded not just for themselves, but for the entire country. They are an example to the world.”
Earlier, Mr Morrison states that were reopening could learn lessons from NSW, which he dubbed as “battle hardened” from recent months.
Mr Morrison said Australians also needed to accept that checking into venues, maintaining social distancing and adhering to COVID-safe measures were new normal parts of life.
“The task is to reopen safely and then to stay safely open,” he said.
“By staying safely open you’re giving confidence to businesses, to people in jobs, to people who are making decisions about their future and what they’re going to do.
“Stop-start, stop-start, does not provide that.”