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SA to reopen to Greater Sydney

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South Australia will reopen to residents of Greater Sydney at 12:01 am on Sunday, January 31, a month after an increase in NSW COVID-19 cases prompted SA authorities to shut them out on New Year’s Day.

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The state’s transition committee today ruled that residents from the Greater Sydney, Central Coast and Wollongong region will no longer have to undergo 14 days of mandatory quarantine in SA, with incoming travellers now just having to submit for a COVID test on day one, five and 12 of their stay.

They will have to isolate until they receive a negative result from their day one test, with the transition committee discussing how to “prioritise” turnaround for travellers arriving at Adelaide Airport.

Those currently quarantining in SA after travelling from Greater Sydney will also be released from quarantine on Sunday, although will still be subject to the same testing regime as incoming travellers.

The move came after NSW Health today recorded no new locally acquired coronavirus cases for an 11th straight day, bringing it three days away from the 14-day no community transmission benchmark set out by South Australian health authorities earlier in the month.

SA’s hard border arrangement with Greater Sydney has been in place since New Year’s Day when the NSW Avalon cluster was at its peak. Only returning residents, those permanently relocating and essential workers are currently allowed into the state from the restricted areas.

There are no other border restrictions on travel into SA.

State Emergency Coordinator Grant Stevens said today’s decision was the “most reasonable step” to allow freedom of movement between the two states.

“I think it’s very evident that imposing these restrictions has a significant impact on families and communities, on business, on social activities between different groups,” he said.

“So we’re trying to find that middle ground position where we’re protecting South Australians, but enabling as much travel as possible between states and territories.

“This was a good step forward.”

There are currently 62 active COVID-19 cases in NSW, with Stevens saying authorities would continue the monitor the situation up until Sunday, as unknown community transmission could derail plans to open the border.

“If we see unidentified or unknown community transmission being identified through the testing process then we may have to reconsider that (decision),” he said.

“But given that there are at day 12 at this point, we’re confident that we’re going to hit that Sunday deadline.

“But it’s something that we always put as a caveat that we are looking to see how they continue to manage community transmission.”

SA Health today recorded zero new coronavirus cases for a seventh consecutive day.

Today’s transition committee decision follows a series of border opening announcements across the country, with both Queensland and Victoria set to open to Sydney over the next seven days.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today announced that Sydney residents will no longer face mandatory coronavirus quarantine on arrival and road border checkpoints will be dismantled from February 1.

“NSW residents are now all welcome back into Queensland at 1am on the first of February – this is wonderful news,” Palaszczuk told reporters today.

The Queensland premier also indicated there would not be blanket border closures in future, with a national hotspot regime adequately containing outbreaks in Sydney and Brisbane in the past two months.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian head about the decision while doing a radio interview

“Fantastic, good news,” Berejiklian told 2GB.

“I hope that this brings a lot of joy and relief to people and that people are reunited.”

She declined to criticise her Queensland counterpart for hearing the news second hand, saying the important thing was “the right outcome is achieved”.

Victoria also hopes to further downgrade more NSW zones in its coronavirus traffic light system, with Premier Daniel Andrews hoping there will be no more red zones in NSW by Friday afternoon.

“I’m very confident that tomorrow, there will be changes to the settings,” the Victorian premier said today.

‘A cause for anxiety’: Health officers plea for more testing

NSW’s zero case day came from a total of 7809 tests, which NSW Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Jeremy McAnulty said is a “concern”.

“The continuing low testing number is a concern as the virus may still be circulating in the community,” Dr McAnulty said.

“With restrictions set to ease across Greater Sydney tomorrow, it is crucial that people maintain their vigilance.”

It was a plea echoed by SA Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Mike Cusack, who repeated calls for more South Australians to come forward for testing.

“When we see in the region of 2000 tests a day, that is a cause for anxiety in public health,” Dr Cusack said.

“I would be really encouraging people that even if you have just the mildest symptoms … please do get yourself tested.”

SA Health recorded 2063 tests yesterday.

The call for testing comes after Stevens said SA was “really close” to reaching a level of restrictions the state will stay at for a long time, with the state emergency coordinator not sure how many more restrictions can be lifted while managing the threat of COVID-19.

“I don’t know that we’re going to see too many more changes in relation to what we can free up whilst at the same time managing COVID if it does come into South Australia,” Stevens said.

“We’ll continue to revisit that and we’re looking at what a baseline level of restrictions and activity might look like and formalising that so everybody has a clear understanding what that is.

Stevens also said there had been a “dramatic reduction” in feedback, questions and concerns from businesses regarding COVID restrictions.

“We’ve acknowledged those concerns but it’s been a necessary step to protect the South Australian community from COVID-19.”

– With AAP

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