Yesterday, the NSW government announced that residents of NSW (and other states and territories with open borders) will be permitted to travel within the state starting June 1. Lockdown restrictions will also be eased from June 1 for the state’s cultural institutions, including art galleries, museums and libraries.

The lifting of the travel ban will come as relief to struggling regional tourism operators, who have been hit hard by the twin disasters of the bushfires and the coronavirus lockdown.

“We’ve done it tough because of drought, we’ve done it tough because of bushfires and, for many of those small businesses in those regions, this is almost the last chance for that holiday, that the ability to fill the cash register, in preparation for the winter, quiet months ahead,” said Deputy Premier John Barilaro at a press conference this morning.

“Christmas has come early,” he added, referring to the earlier expectation that travel wouldn’t be allowed until at least Christmas.

Although many details aren’t clear just yet, it looks like NSW residents won’t be able to cross the border into Queensland, which remains closed. They will be able to travel to Victoria for the day, but overnight visits will only be permitted for caregiving purposes. The borders of Tasmania and Western Australia remain closed for now.

The state borders have been a point of contention for Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who told reporters that reopening them helps stimulate economic activity and makes life easier for border communities.

“I really don’t know what the difference between south-east Queensland and north-east NSW is,” she said. “I don’t really care what other premiers do, that’s a matter for them, and NSW will welcome visitors from all across the country.”

Under the new measures for the state’s cultural institutions, the number of visitors will be limited in accordance with the four-square-metre rule, and returned library books will be shelved for a 24-hour quarantine period.

“NSW is home to some of Australia’s best art galleries and museums, and I look forward to them reopening to the public,” Premier Berejiklian said this morning. “Libraries play an important role in our communities, providing a safe place for learning and reading, and I know many will be pleased to see them reopen. I would encourage museums, galleries and libraries to be innovative to ensure strict social distancing is adhered to and good hygiene measures are followed.”

Group tours will not be allowed and some venues will introduce specific opening times for high-risk groups, such as people over 70. Social distancing measures will be put in place, with seating spread out to ensure a distance of 1.5 metres between patrons.