Australia’s Victoria state mandates face masks and extends physical distancing rules amid record infections.
The border between Australia’s two most populous states – New South Wales and Victoria – was reopened on Monday after more than four months, as Victoria stamped out a second coronavirus wave with a strict lockdown.
The two states closed the border on July 8 for the first time in more than a century, as the government in Victoria moved to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases in Melbourne, the state’s capital and Australia’s second-biggest city.
The border was last shut in 1919 during the Spanish flu pandemic.
As the ban was lifted there were joyful scenes in border towns with drivers honking their car horns to cheers from residents.
The reopening of the borders is also likely to see a surge in air traffic between Melbourne and Sydney, one of the busiest routes in the world before the pandemic, with Sydney airport expecting nearly 4,000 passengers across 26 flights from Victoria on Monday.
Besides providing relief to businesses that straddle both sides of the border, the lifting of the border ban will also put more people back on jobs in several hard-hit sectors during the pandemic, including airlines.
“Today, some people who haven’t worked since March are going to be on aircraft for the first time,” Qantas Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce told local broadcaster Seven News.
After an unprecedented 4 month high-visibility operation, the NSW/Victorian border has been declared open. Police would like to thank the community for its ongoing support. pic.twitter.com/wJmyGP11Ze
— NSW Police Force (@nswpolice) November 23, 2020
Border to NSW is open and we are pretty excited!! pic.twitter.com/aesAC7vCGe
— Alexandra Treloar (@treloar_alex) November 22, 2020
Victoria has reported no new cases of COVID-19 for 24 straight days and has also eased rules on outdoor mask-wearing and the size of public gatherings.
The state became the epicentre of Australia’s COVID-19 outbreak in July after a breach in its hotel quarantine system triggered a surge in cases and the authorities imposed a strict lockdown in Melbourne on July 8.
The state accounts for about 73 percent of Australia’s total COVID-19 cases of just over 27,800 and 90 percent of its 907 deaths.