NSW will be opening up to residents and interstate visitors for regional travel in a move the premier has described as “best” for the state and Australia.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Wednesday announced recreational regional travel within the state will be allowed again from June 1 when libraries, art galleries, and museums will also re-open.
Under current NSW public health orders in place because of COVID-19, regional travel for holidays is banned.
The premier said social distancing will still be required and urged people to plan ahead.
“NSW will welcome visitors from all across the country,” she told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday.
“That’s best for NSW and Australia … This is an opportunity for NSW no matter which way you look at it.”
Ms Berejiklian said the easing of regional travel restrictions will help boost jobs and the economy and noted it was in Australia’s best interest for interstate borders to re-open as well.
Queensland has flagged border closures with southern states could remain until at least September due to the coronavirus pandemic, prompting despair from tourism groups.
Ms Berejiklian warned keeping the borders closed could hinder Australia’s economic growth as the nation tries to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have the potential to lead the world in so many different areas and that potential will be hindered if those border restrictions stay up for too long,” she said.
“We’re all about protecting our citizens in terms of the virus but also protecting our citizens from the economic disaster that’s looming.”
Ms Berejiklian said there will be set times for the state’s most vulnerable to visit libraries, art galleries, and museums, and people will be required to leave a record of their visit so authorities can follow up if there is an infection linked to the facility.
The premier also flagged the number of people allowed in restaurants and cafes could also be doubled to 20 within the next month.
“That’s definitely on the cards,” she told the Nine Network.
It comes as NSW on Wednesday recorded four new COVID-19 cases from more than 7000 tests, with three people in intensive care. The new cases involve returned travellers who were placed in quarantine in hotels.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said lifting the regional travel ban in NSW meant “Chrismas has come early”.
“A month ago regional and rural NSW didn’t want people visiting but … we’re feeling the real brunt of the loss of jobs in the regions on top of what was already a tough period with drought and bushfires,” he said alongside the premier on Wednesday.
“Our regions are open for business we look forward to embracing each and every one of you.”
Mr Barilaro noted the government is working with ski resorts regarding the winter ski season but said it was likely they won’t be open by the June long weekend.
NSW Health on Wednesday confirmed the state recorded its 49th COVID-19 death, a 93-year-old female resident at Sydney’s Newmarch House nursing home.
Operators Anglicare reported the death on Tuesday. The elderly woman’s death is the 17th at the Anglicare-run facility and takes the national death toll to 100.