Victoria’s border with New South Wales will be shut in an escalating battle against the novel coronavirus. The closure comes in to effect at midnight, Tuesday.
The announcement was made on Monday after a meeting between the state premiers and the prime minister. It came as Victoria confirmed 127 new cases of Covid-19 in the previous 24 hours, its highest daily total of the coronavirus pandemic.
As the outbreaks around Melbourne mounted over recent weeks, lax security at the city’s quarantining hotels was being blamed for the spike in cases. None of the new cases announced on Monday were from overseas travel.
Meanwhile, the number of people in Victorian hospitals with Covid-19 tripled over the past week.
The border between Victoria and NSW was the only one within Australia that so far had not had restrictions imposed on it due to the pandemic. The premiers of both states, as well as the prime minister, had till now pushed back against calls to close their border.
Situation has changed, says Berejikilian
In announcing the closing of Victoria border closure, NSW Premier Gladys Berejikilian said the situation had now changed.
“What is occurring in Victoria has not yet occurred anywhere else in Australia and it’s a new part of the pandemic, and as such it requires a new type of response.”
The NSW premier said in a statement the temporary closure was to protect health and jobs.
“The people of NSW have done an incredible job to help stop the spread of COVID-19, allowing us to open up our economy,” she said.
“The outbreak of cases we are seeing in Victoria is putting these gains at risk.
“I do not take this step lightly, but have always said we will do what we must to protect the health and jobs of NSW residents.”
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews conceded closing the border will help prevent the spread of the coronavirus in to NSW.
“This is one of those precautionary measures,” he told reporters.
“It is one of those things that I think will help us in broader terms contain the spread of the virus.”
What does the Victoria border closure mean?
The crossing of Victoria’s border in to NSW will be closed to non-essential travel from 12:01am on Wednesday. The closure will be policed by NSW.
“The NSW Police Force is ready to step up, 400 police officers plus other agencies are preparing to enforce the closure of the NSW and Victorian border,” NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said.
The NSW premier said special arrangements would be put in place for border communities like Albury-Wodonga.
People who have “unavoidable travel” such as for work, will be able to apply for a special permit.
The only people who will be permitted to cross from Victoria to NSW will be permit holders, emergency services workers, freight drivers and returning travellers.
As well as the road closures, arrivals at airports and by train will be checked.
NSW residents returning from a Melbourne Covid-19 hotspot are currently required to self-quarantine for 14 days. People returning to NSW from anywhere in Victoria will be required to isolate under the new rules. People found to be breaking the quarantine will be severely penalised and fined.