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image caption-Travel bans and other restrictions are being eased in Australia-EPA
Two Australian states will reopen their borders to New South Wales (NSW) after it managed to control a Covid-19 outbreak in Sydney.
South Australia and Queensland will remove their travel restrictions on Sunday and Monday respectively.
It comes after NSW reported 11 days without a locally acquired infection.
About 180 cases were tied to the Sydney cluster, which emerged just before Christmas and prompted nationwide travel bans on the city’s residents.
“Credit to New South Wales. They got on top of their cases,” said Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Thursday.
Australia has recorded more than 22,000 cases and 909 deaths since the pandemic began – far fewer than many other countries.
In recent months in particular, the nation has taken swift and aggressive actions to contain outbreaks at their source.
Earlier this month, the Queensland capital Brisbane completed a three-day lockdown over the detection of a single case.
This week, Australia also suspended a travel bubble with New Zealand after its first Covid case in months was confirmed to be a more contagious variant.
‘Joy as people are reunited’
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian welcomed the state border decisions on Thursday, saying: “I hope this brings a lot of joy and relief to people and that people are reunited.”
Ms Berejiklian had previously criticised some of the border closures from other states, arguing they were a disproportionate response. She noted many NSW residents lived far away from the Sydney hotspots.
Her state managed to curb the city’s fast-growing outbreak in December through aggressive contract tracing, restricting gathering sizes and making masks mandatory in shops and on public transport.
Daily case numbers dropped to low single-digits by early January – prompting many Australian jurisdictions to allow travel to and from certain areas in the state.
Currently, only Western Australia maintains a 14-day quarantine requirement for people visiting from NSW.
From Friday, limits on group gatherings in Sydney will also be eased. Face masks will also no longer be mandatory in retail shops but will still be required on public transport.
On Wednesday, Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed the nation had not recorded a single local case since 17 January. Its only infections had been in returned overseas travellers in hotel quarantine.
“At the same time, the world has passed 100 million confirmed Covid cases and almost 17,000 lives have been lost in the last 24 hours,” he added.
On Thursday, Australia was ranked eighth in a list of nations which had responded best to the virus. New Zealand and Vietnam topped the list from the Lowy Institute think tank.