Plan to open state borders by Christmas
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has raised the prospect that families could be tested for COVID-19 as a passport for interstate Christmas holiday travel to reopen the nation's borders.
Confirming he has discussed the idea with the Prime Minister among a range of possible options including temperature checks, Mr Andrews has urged Victorians to stay the course in the hope the borders can reopen in time for Christmas.
"My lengthy conversation with the Prime Minister last night, borders were a central feature of that,'' Mr Andrews said.
"We all want to see that come summer time, come Christmas time, we have freedom of movement.
"That might be about testing before you travel, all sorts of possible things, when you have low case numbers, that'll be something that National Cabinet will talk about on Friday."
But the Victorian Premier also warned the COVID-safe economy would not be COVID-free.
"It is not going to go away completely. There will still be cases, there will still be outbreaks. That's why these weeks and months ahead are so, so important,'' he said.
"But the greatest contribution we can make to get borders open across the country is to continue to drive these numbers down as low as we can, and that's what we're doing."
Mr Andrews warned if the state opened up too much too soon now, "we could have the place locked up again."
"We cannot do that. We have to avoid that. Otherwise the sacrifices every Victorian has made is at risk. Our border remains open. It will be up to other states to make their judgment. But I want is for Victorians in Victoria at the very least to have as normal a Christmas Day as possible. That won't be possible, no chance that will happen, if we try to open up everything, too much too quickly.
"Victorians have sacrificed a lot. They've made an enormous contribution, and that pain, that hard work has to count for something. That doesn't include opening up … then by Christmas time, we're all back in again because we've lost control of this virus. It's silent. It's wicked."
Temperature checks were another option to test motorists as they entered the border.
"I wouldn't be telling other states what to do on this matter. I'd be confident that premiers who've been driven by data and driven by health advice, they would continue to be driven by health advice. And the data and health advice would say Victoria is no longer a risk. That's what I'd be confident of,'' Mr Andrews said.
The Victorian Premier also foreshadowed an easing of restrictions in regional areas where there are few COVID cases ahead of metropolitan hot spots.
"On the basis that the virus is presenting in very different ways and at very different levels in regional Victoria compared to metro Melbourne, there may be some things allowed in regional Victoria that won't yet be allowed in metro Melbourne,'' he said.
"There'll be a series of rules, a series of phases that will be different, because the virus is different in regional Victoria. Today is not the day to speculate or go into that detail but I did want to confirm for all regional Victorians there'll be a different road map announced on Sunday."
Mr Andrews has already conceded that the restrictions will not be eased in time for Fathers' Day.
"I made the point yesterday and I make it again - we had a very different Mother's Day,'' he said.
"We'll have a very different Father's Day. We have to stay the course on this so we'll have as close to normal a Christmas Day has possible. All the sacrifice, the hard work that has been done, that has to count for something."
Mr Andrews said he was not prepared to "fritter away all the good work that Victorians have done, if you don't properly defeat the second wave."
"And not just pretend you've done it but actually do it. That's why very low numbers, and those low numbers being locked in for a period of time - not one day at a low number but a clear pattern - that's what's essential."
The easing of restrictions in regional areas was likely to deliver a huge boost to regional economies.
"People will be able to go and spend in regional Victoria. We'll have a freedom of movement that we've not had, really, at any point this year,'' Mr Andrews said.
"That's what's really important. This has been a very, very terrible year. We still have a way to go. But unless we find it in ourselves to stay the course on this, then 2021 won't be much better. I am determined to make sure that we can have a long-term, safe and stable COVID normal throughout '21 until we get a stable fix to this, which is a vaccine."
In Parliament, the Prime Minister welcomed the Victorian Premier's support for reopening the borders by Christmas.
"We must, though, return to the ambitions that we set out in May for that plan to open up Australia again,'' he said.
"And by Christmas, we should aim for Australians to be able to go to work, to be able to be with their family at Christmas, and to return to visit their friends, and to look forward to a positive 2021.
"We cannot resign Australia to being a dislocated nation under COVID-19."
Originally published as Plan to open state borders by Christmas