Despite growing concerns over cases of the highly transmissible UK “mutant” coronavirus strain doubling within NSW, Victoria could be on the verge of scaling back red zones within the state sooner rather than later.

Currently, under Victoria’s new permit system which has certain areas of NSW designated as red zones, thousands of Victorians are trapped.

The new traffic light permit system means only residents with a special exemption from Victorian health authorities can return home.

Premier Daniel Andrews said on Thursday while he wasn’t in a position to make an announcement on any border changes just yet, he hopes to make an announcement sooner rather than later about reducing the red zones.

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“I understand it’s not easy,” he said on Thursday.

“I just want to assure all Victorians, and particularly those that want to come home but can’t because it’s not safe right now, you will be in this circumstance for not a moment longer than the public health experts tell me you have to be.”

There are fears from Sydneysiders, however, that the state will need to successfully complete 14 days without a locally transmitted case of COVID-19 before the Victoria reopens the border.

While Victoria has not given a definitive answer as to when the borders between the two states would reopen, it is expected a full 14-day cycle of no community transmission will need to pass before lifting restrictions like what happened when NSW closed its border to the Garden State.

NSW closed its border with Victoria on July 8, 2020 when the state recorded consecutive days of COVID-19 cases above 100. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian reopened the border with Victoria on November 23 after the state achieved 14 days of no community transmission.

Victoria Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said the decision on the reopening of the Victorian border to Greater Sydney is a “day-by-day” assessment.

“This is very much going to be a day-by-day situation and assessment about what the numbers are in NSW and where the spread is,” she said earlier this week.

On Friday, Victoria recorded no new locally transmitted cases of COVID-19.

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