| 24 May 2024, Friday |

Australia’s biggest states open borders in time for Christmas season

On Friday, the Australian state of Victoria lifted entry restrictions for citizens of neighboring New South Wales, allowing almost complete reciprocal travel between the country’s two largest states ahead of the busy Christmas season.

Travel between the two cities, which are home to more than half of Australia’s 25 million people, has been severely hampered for months due to an outbreak of Delta variant-fueled Covid-19 cases.

“Victoria and New South Wales have been through so much in recent months, and we’re pleased that more families will now be able to reunite just in time for Christmas and the holiday season,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said on Thursday.

Flight Centre stated that “open borders between Australia’s economic powerhouses” will be a major boost for hotels, airlines, and other tourism businesses as flights resume between Sydney and Melbourne, which was one of the busiest domestic routes in the world prior to the pandemic.

For the first time in months, Victoria downgraded all virus hotspots in its neighbor to safe on Friday, and unvaccinated NSW citizens were allowed to enter without quarantine. After closing its border in July, Victoria had already allowed fully vaccinated NSW residents to enter without quarantine last month.

New South Wales, which had allowed vaccinated Victorians to enter the state as long as they completed a two-week quarantine, dropped the quarantine requirement earlier this week. However, it remains closed to any unvaccinated visitors over the age of 16 from its neighbor.

Adult double-dose vaccination rates have approached 90% in New South Wales and 83% in Victoria.

Because of the high vaccination rates, both states continue to report cases as they transition to a strategy of living with the virus.

On Friday, Victoria reported 1,343 cases, while New South Wales reported 249. Australia reported approximately 177,000 cases and 1,794 deaths, which is far lower than many other comparable countries.

  • Reuters