NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced an easing of the state’s border permit system with Victoria, re-establishing a 50km border buffer zone, as the state records another 13 coronavirus cases.

The border zone will be expanded from 2.5km to 50km on Friday to help border communities go about their lives as normal.

Of the 13 new cases in NSW announced on Tuesday, two are in hotel quarantine. Seven of the new infections are linked to the Sydney CBD cluster, which brings the size of that cluster to 41.

A reduction in new COVID-19 cases in Victoria had made it possible to ease border restrictions, Ms Berejiklian said on Tuesday.

“Pandemics are far from perfection when it comes to having to make decisions quickly and can I tell you, hand on heart, that one of the most difficult decisions I’ve made personally and the government has made during this pandemic has been closing the NSW-Victorian border. It was a decision of last resort,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters in Albury.

“One of the main reasons we didn’t move earlier was because we knew the disruption and angst it would cause people in the border communities.

“You don’t see yourselves as a state border, as two communities, but one.”

Restrictions have been in place on the NSW-Victoria border since early July.

NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro has been vigorously agitating for border restrictions to be relaxed after meeting with stakeholders in Albury-Wodonga last week.

On Monday, he called for a national code to allow agricultural workers to cross state borders without permits, and NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall will take part in a national agricultural ministers’ meeting on Tuesday to seek consensus on the code.

This would allow agricultural workers such as fruit pickers to be designated “essential service” workers, allowing them to freely cross state borders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Australian Industry Group in a statement on Tuesday said the 50km border bubble didn’t go far enough and should be extended to all of regional Victoria.

“Being able to travel 50 kilometres will help some in the community whose lives and businesses have been so badly disrupted, but the border closure itself is not supported by the facts,” Ai Group NSW head Mark Goodsell said.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits. 

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. 

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