Airport joy as 137-day hard border falls
The border between NSW and Victoria has finally flung open after more than more than four months of coronavirus restrictions, with travellers flowing onto the tarmac and friends and family celebrating emotional reunions.
Residents of the two states can now travel freely without a two-week quarantine after restrictions were lifted in what marks a turning point in the year-long fight against the disease.
It comes after NSW recorded a coronavirus-free streak of 16 days and Victoria recorded zero locally-acquired cases for 24 days.
The reopening signals the end of a huge police operation on the physical border which involved more than 600 NSW Police officers and 500 ADF personnel over 137 days.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said there were more than five million vehicles observed across 64 sites across 1,000km.
"For the first rotation down there we needed to find 650 police to go, many of those threw their hands up. They felt proud to be part of what the covid response was from the state of NSW," he told 2GB's Ben Fordham.
Around 1,000 people were arrested during the border patrols.
"It beggars belief that we still had people trying to run drugs across the border and other types of illegal activities and most of these people didn't even find the time to get a permit," he said.
Family and friends of Victorian residents waited anxiously at the gates of Sydney Airport as the first flight, QF404, touched down on the tarmac just before 7.30am. Flight screens read "welcome back Victoria, we missed you."
The news marks a milestone for airlines, with a total of 25 planes set to land in the Harbour City from Victoria today.
To mark the occasion, drag queens donning extravagant costumes welcomed passengers as Bondi Life Guards offered travellers donuts - treats which have come to symbolise "0" cases of the virus.
Similar celebrations were seen at the Albury-Wodonga border, where police blared their sirens and a DJ pumped tunes to welcome the first fleet of cars through.
Melbourne resident Adam de Guara, 46, was among the first to touch down in Sydney for an emotional reunion with his partner Genevive Wild, 45, on Monday morning.
After five months apart, the lighting technicians say "surreal" was the only word to describe finally being able to embrace each other.
"It's a big day for us. We knew the day was coming but after so many setbacks and lockdowns, we were a bit apprehensive," Mr de Guara said.
"We're so excited. The plan for the next few days is to lay low, but we do have a romantic dinner booked for tomorrow night."
And while it was a tough test of the relationship, the couple of two years say they're living proof that absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
"We were speaking everyday without fail. And while the lockdown could make or break our relationship, it really did make it stronger."
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese was one of the excited travellers heading to Victoria.
"It has been a long time since I travelled to Melbourne but I wanted to make sure I was there on day one," he said.
Originally published as Airport joy as 137-day hard border falls