Fears that Victoria may be isolated for up to two years because of ongoing coronavirus infections have been eased after Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed Australia was aiming to wipe out community transmission in all states and territories.
Victoria and NSW are the only two states that still have community transmission of the coronavirus. Other states and territories are keeping their borders closed to most residents of the southern states.
Melbourne University epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely pointed out this week that if the situation in Victoria did not improve, the state could be isolated from the rest of the country until a vaccine was developed, which could take two years.
"So let's assume that Victoria doesn't get rid of the virus ... It essentially means Victoria is going to have to function in isolation from the rest of Australia until such time as we get a vaccine, assuming the other states don't want the virus back in," Blakely told ABC on Wednesday.
His comments sparked fears Victoria could be in lockdown for two years while it battled the infection but Blakely said this was not the case.
"I'm not saying Victorians would have to stay in their houses for two years, I'm saying Victorians might have to stay in Victoria for two years," he told news.com.au.
Blakely said this could be the scenario if all other states and territories managed to eliminate the virus except for Victoria.
"If Victoria doesn't eliminate the virus there is no way that WA, NT, SA, Queensland and Tasmania would accept people from Victoria, why would you?"
However, Blakely said comments by the Prime Minister on Friday that confirmed Australia was aiming for "no community transmission" were welcome and could be a gamechanger.
While Morrison insists Australia is still following a suppression strategy, he said the goal was "no community transmission". This means Victoria and NSW are aiming to achieve the same success as other states and territories.
The PM said this had always been in line with the goal of a suppression strategy but Blakely considers the aim for "no cases of community transmission where the source for the case is unknown, for 28 days" to be part of an elimination strategy.
Regardless of the strategy, Blakely has welcomed the move and said it would ensure Australia would not get split into two parts, between those states that had achieved elimination and those that hadn't.
On Friday, Tasmania announced it would be forming a travel bubble with Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory.