After a nightmare year, it seemed just one week ago that Australia was finally on track for all internal state borders to be reopened by Christmas. Until just a few days ago, there was only one remaining state border restriction in place, preventing South Australians from travelling to Western Australia. This was (and still is) due to be lifted on 25 December exactly.
It would have been a Christmas miracle, as this has not happened since 20 March 2020 when Tasmania became the first Australian state to close its border to people from other states.
Sadly, the dream of border-free travel within Australia by Christmas was too good to be true after all. Following a sudden COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney’s northern beaches last week, all other states and territories have now re-imposed some form of border restrictions on people from Sydney (or in the case of Western Australia, the entire state of NSW).
The sudden border changes, while understandable, have scuppered many Christmas holiday travel plans and caused chaos for interstate travellers who had already begun their journeys. Queenslanders in Sydney or the NSW Central Coast, for example, now have until 1am on Tuesday morning to return home or else must spend 14 days in self-funded hotel quarantine after returning to Queensland.
Some of the border changes have even been made while travellers were already in the air en-route to their destination. Passengers on yesterday’s Jetstar flight JQ672 to Darwin had already departed Sydney when the Northern Territory declared Greater Sydney a coronavirus hotspot. The 130 passengers on this flight were given the option to either return to Sydney or enter hotel quarantine at no cost. Subsequent passengers arriving in the Northern Territory from Sydney will need to pay $2,500 for their 14 days of managed quarantine.
You can find a complete summary of the current state border restrictions here: Overview of Australian State Border Restrictions
The latest border changes will also be devastating for many tourism businesses and airlines who have been suffering for much of this year, but were looking forward to a bumper Christmas holiday period. In normal times, around 40% of Australian domestic flights arrive or depart from Sydney Airport. So the new state border restrictions and NSW govermnent advice for Sydneysiders not to travel will hit hard.
Sadly, as 2020 draws to a close, the coronavirus is still very much with us. There have now been more than 76 million recorded cases worldwide (and rapidly rising), and vaccines are only just starting to be rolled out in a few countries. So this is not over yet and we can’t afford to become complacent.
Let’s hope the NSW authorities can get on top of this latest outbreak quickly, and things will be able to return to normal (as much as they can at the moment) in Australia soon.
Let’s also hope that 2020 won’t have any more nasty surprises in store. But then again, there are still 10 more days of 2020. In these unprecedented times (one of many phrases I never want to hear again after this year!), we unfortunately have to expect the unexpected…
Finally, let’s hope for lots of good news in 2021.
You’ll find plenty of discussion about all of this on our Coronavirus (COVID-19) forum.
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