CANBERRA, Australia: The government will allow citizens to travel between all states and territories except Western Australia by Christmas, under a new agreement struck between the nation’s leaders.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said National Cabinet also agreed to public health measures to ensure states and territories remain open in 2021.
Western Australia is easing some border restrictions, but travellers from NSW and Victoria must continue to quarantine upon arrival.
“It also is a plan that importantly embeds public health metrics in ensuring that when Australia opens safely it remains open safely,” Morrison said.
The prime minister said states that were reopening could learn lessons from NSW, which he dubbed as “battle-hardened” from recent months.
Morrison said Australians also needed to accept that checking into venues, maintaining social distancing and adhering to Covid–safe measures were new normal parts of life.
“The task is to reopen safely and then to stay safely open,” he said.
“By staying safely open you’re giving confidence to businesses, to people in jobs, to people who are making decisions about their future and what they’re going to do.
The National Cabinet agreement was announced ahead of South Australia confirming it would reopen its border to Victoria on December 1.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk also announced a major overhaul of Covid-19 restrictions in her state.
Queenslanders will be allowed to gather in greater numbers, but there is no easing of its hot spot declarations, which dictate who can travel into the state freely.
More than 400,000 Australians have returned home from abroad since the outbreak of the pandemic. A further 30,000 Australians are still seeking to return home.
Morrison said the list of people wanting to return had continued to grow as conditions deteriorated with the northern hemisphere heading into winter.
He said the national priority was getting Australians home first, which meant pilot programs to bring international students into Australia were unlikely to happen this year.
“The frustration at the moment is we hoped to be further ahead on this by now, but the fact is there are many Australians in vulnerable situations and they’re seeking to get home,” the prime minister said.
“That must take priority and I am sure the university sector would understand that.”
Meanwhile, the Northern Territory has recorded five new cases of Covid-19, all of which relate to repatriated Australians from India who landed in Darwin on Wednesday.
The Northern Territory has recorded five new cases of Covid-19, all of which relate to repatriated Australians from India who landed in Darwin on Wednesday.