Australia’s two biggest states have declared their joint border will open at midnight, allowing free travel for everyone from Greater Sydney into Victoria for the first time in months.
The change, billed as “normalising living with the virus” by the two states’ premiers, means after half a year of varying levels of restrictions, all of Australia is considered a “green zone” for travel to Victoria.
The main practical effect of the shift will be allowing unvaccinated people from Greater Sydney and the ACT into Victoria without quarantining or testing, a Victorian government spokeswoman confirmed.
But anyone those without two jabs still face heavy restrictions on arrival in Victoria, or trying to cross the border from the southern state into NSW.
From 11.59pm on Thursday, all travellers from NSW will still need a permit to enter Victoria but won’t have to get tested or quarantine.
Previous “orange zone” rules — which covered Greater Sydney and some other parts of the state — required the unvaccinated to isolate and get tested on arrival.
There are no requirements for fully vaccinated Victorians heading into NSW but they will be severely restricted in terms of what they can do on arrival under Victoria’s vaccinated economy rules.
Anyone over 16 who hasn’t had two jabs won’t be allowed to enter NSW from Victoria for recreation or a holiday, according to the two state governments.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews both thanked residents for making the change possible by getting vaccinated.
“Thanks to the incredibly hard work of Victorians and people in New South Wales in getting vaccinated, we’re delighted to be able to have free travel between the two states once again,” Mr Andrews said.
“Victoria and New South Wales have been through so much over the last few months, and we’re pleased that more families will now be able to reunite just in time for Christmas and the holiday season.”
Mr Perrottet said the shift showed the rest of the country the way forward.
“NSW is set to pass 90 per cent double dose vaccination in the near future, with Victoria not far behind, allowing family and friends to be reunited in the lead up to Christmas after many months of being separated,” Mr Perrottet said.
According to the premiers, 93.8 per cent of people in New South Wales aged 16 and over have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 89.1 per cent have received both doses, with corresponding figures of 92.7 per cent and 82.5 per cent in Victoria.
It’s the second major easing of Victorian border restrictions in a fortnight, after the state scrapped “red zones” last month.