Christmas has come early for people torn apart by COVID-19 border closures as Sydney folk were welcomed into Queensland and Western Australia promised to open its doors to NSW next week.
Friends, families and lovers were reunited at Queensland airports in scenes reminiscent of the popular Christmas movie Love Actually, as WA Premier Mark McGowan got into the spirit saying NSW and Victorians can go west from next Tuesday.
The highly anticipated Christmas gift came after almost nine months of restrictions and was greeted with huge relief on both sides of the continent.
"It's been a long wait," Mr McGowan acknowledged on Tuesday.
The news comes as NSW notched up 24 consecutive days without a single locally transmitted coronavirus case .
Virgin Australia flights from Victoria and NSW Queensland were near capacity on Tuesday and thousands of travellers have booked to travel to the Sunshine State this week.
Thousands of Jetstar and Qantas passengers from Sydney and Victoria will also fly into Queensland for the first time since August.
Almost 9000 passengers were booked to travel on Tuesday and more than 1200 Qantas and Jetstar workers will return to work in December as a result of the Queensland border re-opening.
From Tuesday the two airlines will operate more than 420 return flights per week between Queensland and both Sydney and Melbourne.
Meanwhile, people in NSW are now allowed up to 50 visitors in their homes - up from 20 - as long as there is an outside area available. Otherwise numbers shouldn't exceed 30 guests.
Fifty people - up from 30 - can gather in public spaces.
Hospitality venues up to 200 square metres can now have one person per two square metres indoors and outdoor religious services and gatherings of up to 500 people are allowed.
Pubs and small bars across NSW will be able to use footpaths and public spaces for alfresco dining.
The trial that had breathed life back into The Rocks and Darling Harbour will be made available to all of NSW, with streamlined alfresco dining approvals available from Tuesday.
Meanwhile, NSW Labor Leader Jodi McKay has joined religious leaders in calling for a change to the two square metre rule in places of worship and an end to the ban on congregational singing and chanting.
"It's been a challenging and difficult year and religious worship provides an anchor for many in times of adversity and isolation," Ms McKay said on Tuesday.
"Forty thousand people were allowed to attend the footy grand final and 11,000 the Everest horse race but there is still a maximum of 300 people for some of the most important religious gatherings.
"People are allowed to sing at karaoke bars and concerts but only five people can sing carols in a church. It doesn't make sense," she said.
Up to 30 choristers are allowed to sing together outdoors and anyone participating in the singing, whether in the choir or audience 12 or older, must wear a mask.
Up to 3000 people can attend an outdoor concert and 300 can now attend funerals.
Australian Associated Press