State borders open as virus cases drop

Daniel McCulloch and Paul Osborne
(Australian Associated Press)


Australians will soon be able to move around more freely as state borders open up and Victorian restrictions ease earlier than planned.

South Australia’s planned border reopening with NSW will officially go ahead after another day of promising COVID-19 figures.

The border restrictions with NSW will lift at midnight after the state recorded its second day of no community transmission cases of COVID-19.

NSW residents travelling to SA will no longer have to go into 14 days of self-isolation so long as they do not enter via Victoria.

As well, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has confirmed he will go further than previously planned in easing restrictions this weekend, thanks to declining case numbers and strong testing rates.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt is hopeful greater freedoms will deliver a psychological boost.

“We’ve seen very significant reports about the lockdown implications of mental health,” Mr Hunt told the ABC.

“We want to give Australians back the best mental health conditions, the best ability to get their lives back, but in a COVID-safe way.”

Chief Nursing Officer Alison McMillan said it was too early to tell whether the border restrictions being lifted and economic recovery would help mental health improve.

“We need to wait a little longer before we can make any definitive call around declining numbers,” she told reporters in Canberra.

“Mental health often has a long tail … well past the impact time.

“We are very vigilant to the numbers and we are certainly investing to try to prevent and treat any mental health conditions.”

Victoria recorded 15 new coronavirus cases and another five deaths on Wednesday, taking the national toll to 859.

The state’s 14-day rolling average is now under 30 and the number of cases with no known sources continues to decline.

NSW recorded six new cases, all of whom were returned overseas travellers in hotel quarantine.

There are only five active coronavirus cases remaining in Queensland, with no new infections recorded overnight.

Queensland has added five more northern NSW councils to its border bubble, while South Australia is also reopening to NSW after lifting restrictions for the ACT.

The Northern Territory is offering interstate travellers up to $1000 to visit the Top End during the wet season.

Tasmania is considering opening its borders to some states before the end of October.

Despite travel restrictions easing in many parts of the country, Western Australia is maintaining its hardline stance.

Premier Mark McGowan is adamant the border won’t reopen until NSW and Victoria go 28 days without community transmission.

“Keeping COVID out, having a hard border and getting our economy back up and functional within the borders is working,” he said.

The border relaxations are a boost to the domestic aviation industry, with more flights between states and territories to resume in coming weeks.

Prof McMillan said no extra work has been done with airlines or airports recently around coronavirus safety, but earlier in the pandemic plans were put in place to “ensure they could create a very COVID-safe environment”.

She reminded people thinking of booking airfares not to travel if they are feeling unwell and to accept the airlines’ “stringent requirements”.


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