23/11/2020 8:39 AM AEDT

NSW-Victoria Border Opens After Being Closed For Four Months

This is the first time people can travel freely between the states without needing to quarantine since border restrictions were put in place in July.

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia has moved a step closer to normal life, opening the border between NSW and Victoria after four months.

The border opened at 12:01am on Monday, meaning people are allowed to travel freely between the states without needing to quarantine. 

Lisa Maree Williams via Getty Images
NSW police greet a dog in a vehicle stopped at the border checkpoint at South Albury as they prepare to reopen on November 23, 2020 in Albury, Australia. The New South Wales reopened its border to Victoria at 12:01 on Monday 23 November, with people able to freely travel into NSW for the first time since border restrictions were put in place in July due to Victoria's second wave COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

Victoria, which for months fought the pandemic and where 90% of Australia’s 907 coronavirus-related deaths have been recorded, relaxed its mask rules on Sunday, saying they are not required outside, and allowed larger public gatherings.

The state has had no new infections for 23 days, a victory that came after a 111-day lockdown that kept people at home and most businesses shut.

New South Wales reported no new community cases on Sunday for a 15th straight day.  

South Australia, which last week became the epicentre of the country’s infections, reported no new community cases and lifted a drastic lockdown earlier than planned, with the state premier saying swift action had avoided disaster.

Lisa Maree Williams via Getty Images
Senior Constable, Hannah Males pats a dog of Wodonga residents as they pass through the Hume Highway checkpoint at the Victorian border on November 22, 2020 in Albury, Australia ahead of the borders reopening.

The number of active cases in the state stood at 37 after an outbreak linked to a returned traveller from Britain forced 4,500 people to quarantine.

“We have avoided a catastrophic situation in our state by following the unequivocal health advice,” Premier Steven Marshall told a news briefing.

There were 12 new cases reported across Australia among travellers in hotel quarantine. The country, which closed its external borders early, limits international arrivals and requires a two-week hotel quarantine for arriving travellers.

With just over 27,800 cases, Australia has done better than most other developed nations in combating COVID-19, thanks to its aggressive response. On Sunday, there were an estimated 88 cases active throughout the country.

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