To the west, the long months of South Australia employing police and troops to refuse or limit access to Victorians have been reversed.
Now, South Australians must run the gauntlet to get into Victoria.
On Sunday, as his state celebrated 23 days without a COVID-19 case, it was Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews dispatching police to control the border with South Australia and to impose restrictions and permits and, in the case of people from hotspots in Adelaide, outright bans on those wishing to cross the state line.
The breathtaking swiftness of the reversal on the state boundaries underlined the unpredictability of the coronavirus’ path.
Victorians were being given the good news that they could venture outside mask-free for the first time in months at the very same time that South Australia was tied in excruciating knots about its latest reaction to an outbreak in its capital city.
You could find irony in all this if you were searching, though the twists and turns inevitable within a pandemic make irony, or schadenfreude – that guilty pleasure to be found in another’s misfortune – a fool’s errand.
However, it remains worth noting that Andrews, a Labor Premier, had been excoriated by Liberal voices right up to the Prime Minister for imposing a tough lockdown to get on top of Victoria’s runaway outbreak of COVID-19 following quarantine failures.
South Australia’s Liberal Premier, Steven Marshall, escaped similar high-handed denunciation for imposing last week a much harsher lockdown – indeed, the toughest in the world – only to discover that it had not been required in the first place.
He and his colleagues, trying to mask their dreadful embarrassment, ramped up their condemnation of a pizza worker who had advanced a deceptive story to levels more commonly reserved for the worst criminals.
They are yet to explain satisfactorily how the false testimony of a single low-paid worker could have slipped past officials so easily it could account for a panic-stricken decision to require a whole state – including residents of COVID-free country districts far from the seat of the outbreak in Adelaide – to bolt themselves behind their homes’ doors.
The fiasco has been corrected: South Australia is no longer in lockdown. But the passage of its citizens to putatively COVID-free Victoria will now require a permit remarkably similar to the one Victorians had been required to seek to enter South Australia over past months.
This time Victoria Police will monitor and enforce the permit system and Victorian Department of Health and Human Services authorised officers will meet flights at airports. South Australians crossing the state line will be encouraged to take COVID tests.
A 70-kilometre cross-border “bubble” permit arrangement between Victoria and South Australia will remain in place, and Victoria will accept previous South Australian permits with an address within 70 kilometres of the border.
Victoria, having learnt from the anxious confusion that gripped cross-border residents when South Australia first imposed inflexible rules in August, will exempt those receiving or providing emergency medical care, providing or receiving emergency services or residing on a property that extends across both South Australia and Victoria.
But those who have visited a South Australian high-risk exposure site will not be allowed to visit Victoria.
Northwards, great exhalations of relief could be heard on the Victorian-NSW border.
NSW’s decision in August to close its border with Victoria had jammed up Australia’s most important transport route, the Hume Highway, only a few years after it had become a seamless path, having bypassed every town and city between Melbourne and Sydney.
Now, it is about to run free again. But in the time of pandemic, there remains the unspoken and ever-fearful question: for how long, this time?
Tony Wright is the associate editor and special writer for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.