The border between New South Wales and Victoria has reopened again, 138 days after it was shut in the face of a second wave of Covid-19.
While being able to travel freely between Australia’s two most populous states shouldn’t normally be anything out of the ordinary, in the context of the surreal world of 2020, it is nothing short of a triumph.
Indeed, there were New Year’s Eve-type celebrations at the Albury-Wodonga checkpoint, with a DJ playing for the big countdown and police blaring their sirens as the clock struck midnight.
Grey nomads, of course, are hoping that tis really is a sign that things are getting back to something like normal and that the elusive ‘borderless Big Lap’ will soon be a reality again.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the re-opening of the NSW-Victorian border was a momentous event.
“We never want to see this ever again,” she said. “This is the last time in our lifetime this border is closed.”
The ABC reports that, as of yesterday, Victoria had recorded 23 consecutive days of no community transmission, while NSW had recorded 15.
The re-opening is a huge boost both for grey nomads who have been limited in their travel destinations, and for those communities who have missed their presence.
But, it seems, they will be counting the cost of the closures for many years to come.
The Chief executive of the Murray Regional Tourism Board, Mark Francis, said the heavy reliance of places like Echuca-Moama on tourism meant its economy had been ‘decimated’.
“At best, we might get back to about 50% of pre-Covid outcomes for expenditure and visitation, by the end of 2021–22,” he told the ABC. “And it would take until about 2024 to actually get back to a pre-Covid perspective.”
Echuca-Moama Tourism chief executive Kathryn Mackenzie said resorts, caravan parks, and cafés had all been doing it tough.
“It has been quite crushing and now we know it will take up to four years for us to regain that end of March 2020 data,” Ms Mackenzie said. “While it’s wonderful the border is opening, it’s not just as simple as people coming back … it will be long a road back.”