NSW will reopen its border to Victoria from 23 November, making it the only jurisdiction in Australia welcoming people from all states and territories as well as New Zealand.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the update at a press conference and the move was a “calculated risk” but that Victoria may have managed to eliminate COVID-19 in the state following its “prolonged” lockdown.
“They may have, because of the lockdown, actually gone down a path of having eliminated it at this point in time,” Berejiklian said.
“Come a minute past midnight on November 23, there will be free movement between NSW and Victoria.”
Berejiklian said she made the announcement today to give people time to make plans.
“I want to give people notice. I want families to make plans, businesses including airlines and the tourism sector to make plans ahead of Christmas and also businesses who interact with each other to do that,” she said.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the border opening will have a huge economic impact on regional and rural communities and said it was a reward for those who “did the right thing”.
According to ABC News, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews welcomed the move and said Berejiklian would not be opening the border “if she didn’t have confidence Victorians could maintain the low numbers”.
However, he urged Victorians not to go to Sydney for Christmas and summer holidays.
“We have lots of places here you can visit,” he said.
Qantas and Jetstar have announced that once the border is open combined they will operate more than 250 flights per week across five routes, offering 48,000 seats between the two states.
Both carriers will look to add more flights if there is sufficient demand.
The flights will see the Qantas Group’s overall domestic capacity increase from around 30 per cent of pre-COVID levels to just under 40 per cent from late November, with more aircraft ‘woken up’ and more employees returning to work to support the additional flying.
Travel Weekly understands Virgin Australia will move to operate four return services per day between Sydney and Melbourne from the opening date, with more services expected to be added ahead of the Christmas holidays.
The airline expects to have more than 20,000 seats per week available for booking between the destinations.
A spokesman from Virgin Australia said the announcement would help restore confidence in the tourism and aviation sectors and provide certainty in terms of jobs.
“An open border between New South Wales and Victoria allows us to bring more of our team members back to work and gives customers the ability to do business, reunite with loved ones, friends and family.
“It is a turning point for the Sydney-Melbourne route, which was once the second busiest in the world.
“We will also bring forward the reintroduction of services between Melbourne and Newcastle from 15 December to 24 November when the border reopens.”
Accommodation Association CEO Dean Long welcomed the reopening of the border to Victoria by NSW, but warned that even with these restrictions beginning to finally lift, the future remains challenging for Sydney and Melbourne hotels that are reliant on international and corporate travel.
“We have been reinforcing to all state and territory governments that certainty around borders will be critical to the recovery of our sector, and this date is an important step in that recovery process,” he said.
“We need our governments to work together so that when borders open, it is managed in a safe and sustainable way that provides long-term confidence to travellers so they feel comfortable making bookings again.”
The border closure between NSW and Victoria has been in place since early July at the start of Melbourn’s devastating second wave of COVID-19.
In September, the restrictions for residents on the NSW and Victorian border were eased with the extension of the NSW government’s border travel zone.
[PLEASE NOTE: THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE PUBLISHING TO INCLUDE COMMENTARY BY QANTAS, VIRGIN AUSTRALIA AND THE ACCOMMODATION ASSOCIATION.]
Source: Facebook/ Gladys Berejiklian