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States strip away borders and restrictions

Thousands of Australians are on the move as states strip away border closures and social restrictions.

Cars have started streaming into Victoria now that NSW has reopened its border after more than four months.

Flights between Sydney and Melbourne, the world’s second busiest air route, have also resumed.

Victoria has now gone 24 days without a coronavirus infection or death.

From Monday, Victorians no longer have to wear masks outdoors and residents are allowed to host 15 people in their homes.

The cap on outdoor gatherings at parks and beaches will increase to 50 people and up to 150 will be allowed at weddings.

Small hospitality businesses will be allowed up to 50 customers – one person for every two square metres – and larger venues will be able to host up to 300 people.

South Australians are also enjoying eased restrictions earlier than planned.

The premier has scrapped lockdown restrictions after health authorities realised an infected hospitality worker lied to contact tracers.

Even so, the state’s health officer has no regrets about imposing the harsh rules.

NSW has become the first jurisdiction to open to all states and territories.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is confident in her decision and hopes the state’s borders will not be closed again in her lifetime.

However, Queensland remains closed to people from Sydney.

Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, who flew from Sydney to Melbourne on Monday, was loath to criticise the Queensland premier.

“No one wants to see restrictions in place but restrictions have made Queenslanders safe,” he told reporters.

“I want to be able to travel and I want Australians to travel. I know Annastacia Palaszczuk does too.”

Qantas boss Alan Joyce says Queensland has set the bar too high in terms of its border restrictions.

The airline is also working with the federal government on international flights to increase the number of Australians allowed to come back each week.

The weekly cap is currently set at 6000 passengers.

Federal Tourism and Trade Minister Simon Birmingham is sympathetic to NSW’s call to be able to open up a third of the state’s hotel quarantine beds to international students.

But he insists the priority has to remain on returning Australians.

Ms Berejiklian understands the Commonwealth’s position, but points out her state welcomes back more passengers each week than all other states combined.

Since the pandemic started, NSW has catered for more than 100,000 returned Australians, whereas other states combined have only received a small fraction of that figure.

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