Victoria reopens borders to Sydney as ‘red zones’ remain in place

Scores of Victorians left stranded in Greater Sydney by Victoria’s new travel permit system will be allowed to return home from Monday night, after large swathes of the city were downgraded from ‘red’ to ‘orange’ zones.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton today revealed the change to the state’s ‘traffic light’ system, which bars anyone who has been within a designated COVID-19 transmission ‘red zone’ over the past 14 days from entering the state without an exemption.

From 6pm AEDT, most Sydney council areas, plus the Blue Mountains and Wollongong regions, will be reclassified as ‘orange’ zones.

Anyone entering Victoria from those regions must apply for a permit, and agree to receive a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival. Folks entering Victoria from those council areas must also self-isolate before the test and until they receive a negative result.

The change overrides their previous ‘red zone’ designation and applies retroactively to the past 14 days.

However, ten of Sydney’s local government areas – Blacktown City, Burwood, Canada Bay City, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield City, Inner West, Liverpool City, Parramatta City and Strathfield Municipality – will remain ‘red zones’ in the eyes of Victorian authorities.

The Victorian government will also relax permit guidelines for communities along the Victoria/NSW border. Major centres including the City of Wagga Wagga, Albury City, and the City of Broken Hill will be designated as ‘green’ zones, allowing entry into Victoria without requiring a COVID-19 test.

Residents of those areas will not need to apply for a permit, but must keep ID with their home address handy and ensure they have not visited an ‘orange’ or ‘red’ zone within the past 14 days.

Fronting the media on Monday morning, Andrews said the decision to keep those ten Sydney regions as ‘red’ zones was based on public health advice gleaned from the city’s recent COVID-19 outbreaks.

“What the detailed and extensive evaluation of the epidemiological conditions in Sydney has revealed is that transmission and cases are pretty much confined to those ten local government areas,” Andrews said.

“And we’re not seeing cases and spread or contacts that are in isolation in those other 25 local government areas.”

Separately, Andrews acknowledged the week-old permit system had been “difficult” for Victorians in Sydney, adding that public health authorities will continue to monitor the situation and downgrade ‘red’ zones “as soon as it’s safe to do so.”

NSW Health recorded zero new locally-acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours leading to 8pm Sunday.

The state tallied six locally-acquired cases on Saturday, all of whom were deemed close contacts of the one new case in western Sydney reported on Friday last week.

Today’s announcement comes two days after Victoria downgraded the Brisbane local government areas of Brisbane, Moreton Bay, Redland, Logan, and Ipswich to ‘orange’ zones.

It’s good news for Victorians hoping to make the trek home. But for those still in ‘red’ regions, the wait may be a while yet.