The border between New South Wales and Victoria was opened to fully vaccinated travellers from 11.59pm on Thursday, as both state governments push ahead with “normalising living with the virus”.
The Victorian acting chief health officer, Ben Cowie, on Thursday evening reclassified the status of the Australian Capital Territory and all remaining “orange zone” areas in New South Wales.
All local government areas in the ACT and NSW are now considered “green zones”, meaning that travellers and workers entering Victoria from these jurisdictions face no testing or quarantine requirements.
It is the first time in more than six months that Victoria has considered all LGAs across Australia as green zones under its traffic light system.
However, all arrivals will still be required to obtain a permit from Service Victoria before arriving in the state to confirm they are not Covid-positive or subject to an isolation requirement.
Anyone who is not fully vaccinated is still subject to strict travel restrictions set by each state, with Victorians aged older than 16 who are unvaccinated barred entry to NSW for recreation.
In a joint statement on Thursday night, the NSW premier, Dominic Perrottet, and the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, said that strong vaccination coverage in each state and falling case numbers had meant they could continue “normalising living with the virus”.
Perrottet said the states were “allowing family and friends to be reunited in the lead-up to Christmas after many months of being separated”.
“This milestone has only been made possible because people across NSW and Victoria have rolled up their sleeves and led the nation on the road back to normality thanks to our high vaccination rates,” Perrottet said.
Andrews thanked “the incredibly hard work of Victorians and people in NSW in getting vaccinated”.
“We’re delighted to be able to have free travel between the two states once again.
“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.”
High vaccination coverage has allowed both states to end lockdown in recent weeks, but vaccine uptake has appeared to slow recently.
While NSW reached 80% double-dose coverage of residents over 16 in mid-October, on Thursday the figure was 82.5%, with 93.8% having received one dose.
In Victoria, 82.5% of residents aged above 16 have received both vaccine doses, with 92.7% receiving their first dose.