Victorians can expect freer movement in and out of Sydney from Friday, when most of the city should enter the green zone of Victoria’s traffic light permit system, Premier Daniel Andrews says.
- Mr Andrews says most Sydney areas should go into the green travel zone but some may remain orange
- Victoria Police should be able to reduce the numbers of officers at the border, Mr Andrews said
- There were three new cases of coronavirus identified in Victorian hotel quarantine
Greater Sydney, Wollongong and the Blue Mountains are currently in the orange zone, while the Cumberland local government area in Sydney is the only place in Victoria’s red zone.
Anyone in a red zone cannot enter the state without an exemption, exception or specified worker permit.
Any person travelling from an orange zone needs to get a specific permit and get tested within 72 hours and remain in quarantine until they get a negative result.
Mr Andrews said depending on the final public health advice, he expected to see “the vast majority” of Sydney be reclassified from orange to green.
“I would hope to have, by the end of tomorrow, no red zones in New South Wales, a much larger green zone,” he said.
“But there may be some remnants, a couple of local government areas that remain orange.”
As of Wednesday, more than 376,000 travel permits had been issued since the system began on January 11.
Police numbers at border could be reduced
It comes as the state recorded a 22nd consecutive day with no new locally acquired cases of coronavirus from 14,494 tests.
There were three new cases in hotel quarantine.
There are currently 27 active cases of COVID-19 in Victoria.
The police union and the Opposition have been calling for Victoria Police to reduce the number of officers working at the Victoria/New South Wales border as soon as possible.
About 850 officers are enforcing the travel restrictions and some police stations have had to reduce services because of a staff shortage.
Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said New South Wales had not had a new case in 11 days.
“It’s time to get the police back from the borders, back on the streets and back in our police stations,” Mr O’Brien said.
He called on the Premier to advocate at National Cabinet for a national definition of a coronavirus hotspot, to give people more certainty about border closures.
“At the moment too many people are scared to leave their own state because they don’t know if the Premier’s going to change the rules on them within five minutes,” he said.
“And that’s what happened on New Year’s Eve.”
Mr Andrews said the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police could make his own decisions about where to deploy staff, but that decision would be made “a little easier” after the travel restrictions had been changed.
“Logic tells you if we can get just about every part of the country green barring one or two areas then Victoria Police — there’s going to be less of them on the border,” Mr Andrews said.
“If it’s just a handful of local government areas then VicPol would be confident to redeploy resources.”
Mr Andrews acknowledged border issues were a challenge but said it was no time to “freelance” or “cherry pick” advice around coronavirus.
Significant crowds anticipated at Australian Open
He also flagged that although no final decision about spectator numbers at the Australian Open had been made, there would be “significant crowds” allowed to attend the tennis grand slam, which gets underway on February 8.
“Having big events, whether it’s the Boxing Day Test or the upcoming tennis — having them done safely — but as a real glimpse of something normal, something quite tangible, that’s great for confidence,” he said.
Dozens of tennis player are expected to be released from hotel quarantine in the coming days and Mr Andrews was asked if that would lead to an increase in the hotel quarantine capacity for international arrivals.
He said the players and officials were never a part of that overall cap.
The overall cap will gradually increase to about 2,000 by mid-February, almost double the current cap.
“Our quarantine system is somewhat different to others. Everybody works for us. Everybody’s tested every day,” he said.
“There is no private security. That means we don’t have unlimited capacity.”