The NSW-Victoria border has reopened, 138 days after being slammed by Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian to prevent the spread of COVID-19

The border officially opened this morning at 12:01 a.m., which means people can now travel freely between the two states without needing to quarantine

There were celebrations at the Albury-Wodonga checkpoint, with a DJ playing for the big countdown and the police sounding their sirens as the clock struck midnight

Melbourne resident Fiona Snape stayed in Wodonga last night so she could hit the road early this morning to pick up her 18-year-old daughter from Canberra University

“Haven’t seen her since early July, it will be great to see her again and I’ll pick her up and bring her back to Melbourne for the holidays,” she said

The EconoLodge Border Gateway Motel was booked within hours of the border reopening announcement

“We’ve had almost 150 reservations since the announcement… for a 10-room motel in a small country town, that’s pretty phenomenal,” said manager Duncan McLaren

“It’s rather nice to have very crippling restrictions after these last months”

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian yesterday acknowledged how difficult the closure has been for border communities and thanked them for their resilience

“This is the last time in our lives that this border is closed and we know that tomorrow morning after midnight will be a whole new era for our two states”

Ms Berejiklian said she now felt more confident about the border being lifted than when she made the call on November 3, due to the number of days without local transmission in both states

Victoria had recorded 23 consecutive days without community transmission yesterday, while NSW recorded 15

The border between the two states has been closed since July 8, after Melbourne was hit by a second wave of coronavirus cases in late June

Since then, only a select few have been allowed to cross the border, including 11th and 12th graders, farm workers, those in need of emergency care, and those allowed to cross on humanitarian grounds

People living within a 50-kilometer radius of the border were also exempt from the strict border restriction under the so-called “border bubble”, which allowed those who live and work on either side freedom of movement

It was reduced to just 2 within a 5 kilometer radius, but was later extended to its original 50 kilometer radius on September 4 after Deputy Prime Minister John Barilaro visited border communities and learned the disruption this caused

Since July, more than 14,000 New South Wales police officers across the state have patrolled more than 27 checkpoints along the border

This represents more than 100,000 police teams, with around 500 officers at border checkpoints every day

They were aided by 1,200 members of the Australian Defense Force (ADF), as well as personnel from Transport for NSW and Victoria Police

It was a big job: up to 25,000 traffic movements per day were detected in Albury-Wodonga at one time

New South Wales Police say 80% of vehicle movements are carried out by local residents of border towns

Police issued 17 Sanction Violation Notices (PINs) during the operation and seven charges were laid in connection with the border control instructions

Almost 800 traffic offenses have been pronounced and over 70 charges laid for a range of offenses, including drug procurement, possession of weapons and drinking and driving

Ms. Berejiklian has long advocated for open borders between states and territories amid the pandemic

However, the Prime Minister was forced to change tactics when an infected Victorian cargo unknowingly drove to the Crossroads Hotel in western Sydney

The contagious Victorian, who visited the hotel on July 3, ultimately led to COVID-19 diagnoses of at least 58 people in New South Wales

An 83-year-old man linked to the Crossroads hotel outbreak became NSW’s 52nd coronavirus death on August 1

Now, over four months later, and after a string of Victorian or NSW COVID-19 cases, the hard state border has fallen

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