Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales recorded its 11th day of zero local coronavirus cases on Thursday, allowing neighbouring Queensland state to lift border restrictions while Victoria state also hinted at relaxing travel with Sydney.
Australian states imposed quarantine or hard border restrictions for travellers from New South Wales (NSW) after an outbreak in Sydney in late December, throwing Christmas holiday plans of thousands of Australians into chaos.
The Sydney clusters have now been curbed, giving other states the confidence to reopen borders. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said her state would welcome NSW residents from Feb.1.
“I want to see families and friends reunited,” Palaszczuk said in a televised news conference. “We know how important that New South Wales market is, so for those viewers currently in Sydney and you’re looking for an escape, there is no better place than the tropical far north.”
The south eastern state of Victoria, which is hosting the Australia Open tennis grand slam, too hinted at changing border settings with Sydney on Friday. The state recorded its 22nd day of zero local cases.
Victoria introduced a permit system for all travellers which allows for areas to be designated as green, orange or red according to their risk.
Travellers from a red zone are not permitted into Victoria while those from orange zone will need to take a coronavirus test within three days of arrival.
“I’d hope to have by the end of tomorrow no red zones in New South Wales, a much larger green zone but there may be some remnants of a couple of areas that remain orange,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said. Australia has reported more than 22,000 local Covid-19 cases and 909 deaths since March.
The country, which closed international borders early in the pandemic and imposed lockdowns and strict social distancing measures, has ranked among the top 10 in a Covid performance index for its successful handling of the disease.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that his country is planning to impose tougher border measures to stop new variants of Covid-19 from getting into the country.
The prime minister said that as he promised to deliver a roadmap out of lockdowns that have shuttered much of the economy.
The government is expected to bring in quarantine hotels for those coming to Britain from high-risk countries where new strains of the coronavirus have emerged – so-called red list nations – such as South Africa and those in South America.
The move comes as Britain’s death toll from Covid-19 surpassed 100,000, the first European state to reach that figure, leading to further questions about Johnson’s handling of the crisis.
“The Home Secretary (interior minister) will be setting out later today…even tougher measures for those red list countries where we are particularly concerned about new variants,” Johnson told parliament when asked about plans to strengthen Britain’s borders.
Britain saw infections soar at the end of last year after a highly-contagious new variant that emerged in southeast England surged through the population, taking cases and later deaths to record levels.
Since the start of January, all the United Kingdom has faced lockdowns which have closed schools, pubs, and restaurants to all bar takeaways with the public told they must stay home as much as possible.
Johnson and his ministers have faced repeated questions, including from many in his own party, on when measures would be eased especially with regard to school closures.
He told lawmakers he would address that issue later on Wednesday when he is due to host a media conference.—AFP