Vic has 24th virus-free day, NSW reunion

Callum Godde
·2-min read

Victorians have been reunited with cut-off interstate relatives, loved ones and friends, as the NSW border re-opened to end more than four months of exile.

It came as the state recorded its 24th straight day without new infection or death, inching closer to Queensland's benchmark of 28 days without unlinked community transmission to re-open to Victoria.

NSW re-opened its border to travellers from the state just after midnight on Monday.

Qantas and Virgin Australia rolled out the welcome mat at Melbourne and Sydney airports for the first passengers to arrive on Monday morning.

In one family reunion at Tullamarine, grandparents embraced two young children.

"It's really, really good," the ecstatic grandmother told reporters.

Another woman flew back into the arms of her partner she hadn't seen since early June.

The ACT is also now accessible to Victorians, while Tasmania and South Australia have flagged potential reopenings to the state in the coming weeks.

Sweeping changes came into effect across the garden state from Monday, with Victorians no longer having to wear masks outdoors unless they are unable to safely physically distance.

They must still wear masks in indoor environments including workplaces, supermarkets and public transport, and carry them at all times.

Melburnians have been required to wear face masks outside since mid-July and the rule was extended to regional Victoria in early August.

Other tweaks from Monday include 15 home visitors allowed per day, up from two, while limits on outdoor public gatherings rise to 50 people.

For weddings and funerals, 150 people will be able to come together to celebrate or commiserate.

The same limit applies to cinemas, galleries and museums, and large-scale events can resume if granted a permit.

Large restaurants, cafes and pubs will be able to host up to 150 customers indoors, while smaller venues will be limited to 50 and must keep QR code records.

Premier Daniel Andrews outlined additional steps towards normality as well: up to 30 home visitors per day from December 13 - just in time for Christmas - and 25 per cent of staff returning to workplaces from November 30.

It came as Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton conceded the state's oft-panned contact tracing regime degraded once daily cases exceeded 200 towards the height of the pandemic.

"When you get to very, very high numbers it does degrade your ability to get to those really important benchmarks and, for us, I think that probably kicked in in the hundreds," he told a parliamentary inquiry.

Victoria has since moved to a digitised system, created by US tech firm Salesforce, which Department of Health and Human Services secretary Euan Wallace said automates the process "end to end".

Prof Wallace said it and other improvements meant Victoria could now "cope with 500 new cases a day".