There’s been plenty of news over the weekend on the easing of coronavirus restrictions across Australia. Here’s Travel Weekly’s breakdown of everything you need to know.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has revealed thousands of fans will soon be able to return to sporting events and limits on the number of people at indoor venues will be scrapped.
It came after Friday’s National Cabinet meeting heard that all states and territories were on track to complete the move to the new stage three restrictions next month, according to ABC News.
A limit of 100 people on indoor gatherings will also be scrapped, with no limit on numbers, but a requirement that venues allow for four square metres of space per person.
Morrison said that would allow for weddings, funerals and other indoor events to only be limited by the size of their venue. Nightclubs would remain shut, he said.
There’s also been plenty of news state-by-state, with Queensland and South Australia flagging July dates for the opening of their domestic borders and the Northern Territory expected to follow suit.
Here’s a quick breakdown:
Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan has come under fire for refusing to set a date for the reopening of his interstate borders, despite coming under increased pressure from the Prime Minister.
According to ABC News, Morrison voiced concerns in an address on Friday that by the end of July Australians will be able to travel anywhere throughout the country except for WA.
“I think the only state or territory likely to fall out of that is still possibly Western Australia, but there is a commitment from the Premier to continue to look at this issue,” he said.
However, since then, the federal government has announced it will join a legal fight in the High Court against WA’s border closures, which includes the likes of Clive Palmer and state tourism operators.
Meanwhile, Queensland has brought forward its expected border reopening date to 10 July, after Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk last month flagged restrictions might last into September.
It comes after the Prime Minister reportedly forced the issue of domestic border restrictions at Friday’s National Cabinet meeting, with many states and territories nominating dates for reopening.
However, the state’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeanette Young, said the 10 July date could be brought forward sooner if Australian cases remained low.
While the possibly of a travel ‘bubble’ between NSW and Queensland remains on the cards, should Victorian cases of COVID-19 remain higher than elsewhere in the country, according to Health Minister Steven Miles.
Separately, the Palaszcuk government announced it will provide $5 million to 15 of the state’s airports to “secure new domestic flights to fast-track the tourism industry’s economic recovery”.
Tourism Minister Kate Jones said the initiative followed the government’s recent partnership with Whitsundays Regional Council that secured Alliance Airlines flights to fly four times a week between Brisbane and the Whitsunday Coast (Proserpine) Airport starting on 22 June 2020.
“We know that tourism operators right across the state are hurting due to COVID-19,” she said.
“This funding will allow thousands more Queenslanders to explore their own state and will pump millions of dollars into communities that rely on tourism.”
Jones said the announcement could support 1,500 to 1,600 jobs per year over a three-year period, with each flight tipped to generate up to 50 jobs along the supply chain.
The announcement came as the Sunshine Coast’s newest runway – over half a kilometre longer than the one it replaces – was officially handed over to airport operators on Friday.
“With a longer runway that’s able to accept bigger planes, we’ll be able to negotiate with airlines to secure direct fights from other destinations – not just Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Auckland,” Jones said.
South Australia will open its borders on Monday 20 July, Premier Steven Marshall has announced.
However, according to 9 News, legal advice is still being sought on whether travellers from some regions will still have to self-isolate upon entering the state.
Marshall said stage three restriction changes have been brought forward.
“From the 20 July we will be removing all state borders, so this will remove the restriction that was placed on everybody returning to South Australia, whether they were a South Australian coming back or somebody from interstate coming over,” he said, as reported by 9 News.
“Now, the international border remains, but as of the 20 July, the state border will be removed for all states.
“We will be looking at some of the state borders with individual jurisdictions who are doing particularly well.
“We don’t want to unnecessarily detain people for two weeks of isolation if they don’t pose a health risk to us in South Australia.”
Moreover, from this Friday, the state’s 20-person room limit for venues, including pubs, theatres and cinemas, will increase to 75.
The total cap on people per venue will also be upped from 80 to 300, Marshall announced.
The rule, which would originally have seen limits on 100 people per room at stage three, will be replaced with a one person per four square metres rule, as per the National Cabinet meeting.
Meanwhile, it is expected that Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner will name 20 July as the territory’s domestic border reopening date, off the back of Queensland and South Australia’s announcements.
NT News claims Gunner has reportedly been forced to shift ground on his previous hard-line stand in the wake of a campaign to open up in July by the News Corp publication and Territory businesses.
A spokesman for Mr Gunner told NT News the Chief Minister would “likely” give a date by the end of next week to Territorians for the opening of the territory’s borders.
That news would come in the nick of time, off the back of Qantas’ expanded network of flights across Australia, with increased flight capacity to the Northern Territory.
New South Wales
The NSW government has updated its plan to expand indoor venues’ capacities from Wednesday, 1 July, scrapping the upper limit on patrons per event in favour of the one person per four square metres rule.
All activity for events, however, must be seated only, the state government said.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro also advised the government would consider further solutions for smaller venues, particularly in regional NSW, where the one person per four square metres rule is “not practical for small businesses”.
It comes after the state earlier this month scrapped intrastate travel restrictions ahead of the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.
On Sunday, the Victorian government announced businesses and venues, including bars, cinemas, and libraries, can host up to 50 seated people – with no requirement to purchase meals with drinks – from next Monday, 22 June.
Furthermore, from 20 July, electronic gaming areas at pubs, clubs and the casino will be reopened with strict distancing, cleaning and hygiene requirements.
While ski season and ski accommodation will also open from 22 June.
The state government also announced a new targeted testing program to focus on local government areas with low testing rates, communities with high case numbers, high-risk workforces and vulnerable groups.
It also revealed $9.8 million in funding to extend the current emergency accommodation stays for people experiencing homelessness, and plan their pathway out into more stable long-term housing.
Tasmania Premier Peter Gutwein has flagged more restrictions across the island-sate will be lifted this week, off the back of no current active COVID-19 cases.
From midday Wednesday, further lifting of restrictions will see 80 people allowed for indoor and outdoor gatherings, including at gyms, pubs, restaurants, and weddings and funerals.
Social distancing and density restrictions will still apply.
Stage three of easing restrictions had been scheduled to begin in mid-July, but is now set to occur on 26 June, with the reopening of markets, food courts, casinos and nightclubs, and camping trips for school groups.
Caps on the number of people permitted at gatherings would be removed and replaced solely with density requirements, ABC News reported.
However, Gutwein has not committed to set a date for the reopening of Tasmania’s domestic border, despite calls from the Prime Minister for all borders across the nation to open in July.
Australian Capital Territory
The Australian Capital Territory has outlined more restrictions to be eased from lunchtime this Friday.
Competitive sports will resume, cinemas, theatres and indoor play centres will reopen and businesses will be allowed up to 100 people in their venues, while maintaining social distancing, ABC News reported.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the ACT government was working on how to reopen major events, following an announcement from National Cabinet that stadiums could reopen.
As it stands, the territory is currently in stage two of its recovery plan, with the move to stage 2.2 on Friday, 19 June, to also allow people to order an alcoholic drink at a bar without needing to order food.
However, all customers will still need to be seated.
Featured image: iStock/jamenpercy