NSW to close borders to VIC as COVID-19 crisis worsens
6 July 2020, Written by David Simmons & Matt Ogg
New South Wales will close its border to Victoria from 11:59pm tomorrow following talks between VIC Premier Daniel Andrews, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
The measure comes as Victoria has reported 127 new cases of COVID-19 today, taking the number of active cases in the state to 645.
34 of the new COVID-19 cases are connected to known outbreaks, 40 are from routine testing, and 54 are under investigation by the public health team.
There are now 31 COVID-19 patients in hospital in the state including five in intensive care. A man in his 90s has also died of the virus in the past 24 hours.
Premier Andrews says the border will be closed on the NSW side so as to not drain resources needed in Victoria to contain the outbreak of COVID-19.
"This is one of those precautionary measures, it's one of those things that I think will help us to contain the spread of the virus," says Andrews, describing the decision as "the right call".
"All three of us agree that this was the right step to take right now."
Premier Andrews has apologised for any inconvenience these new border measures may cause to those planning on travelling from VIC to NSW this week.
"I apologise for any inconvenience that will cause people who have got unavoidable travel to New South Wales. There will be a permit system," says Andrews.
"There will be a facility for people who live on those border communities to be able to travel to and from for the purposes of work, purposes of the sort of essential health services that they might need."
NSW Premier Berejiklian elaborated on the closure shortly after her counterpart's press conference in Victoria, explaining the decision to close the border was made due to the unprecedented rate of community transmission in Melbourne.
"I do want to stress what is occurring in Victoria has not yet occurred anywhere else in Australia. It's a new part of the pandemic. And as such, it requires a new type of response," she said.
"I certainly don't want Victorians to feel that they're being singled out in any which way. This could very well be New South Wales at some stage in the future. This is very much a team effort."
She said authorities had a "mammoth task" of handling around 55 border crossings with Victoria, and that it would likely take 48 to 72 hours before the permitting system is worked out for essential workers to move between the two states.
"For some people who normally travel across the borders, their daily lives will be restrained until we get the permit system in place, and we hope that'll happen in the next two days," she said
"Anybody who feels that want to apply for a permit can do so at Service New South Wales. It will be very easy...if you live in Albury-Wodonga it's one community, and you might have the need [to cross the border] for a business reason or work reason or a health reason.
"We've never defined an essential worker in New South Wales for a reason, because you can never determine someone's exceptional circumstances."
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said there were now 69 cases of COVID-19 being treated by NSW Health, and one person in intensive care who does not need a ventilator.
"Based on the fact we have seen increasing cases extending outside the hotspot areas, and recognising that there is often a lag between when cases are recognised and diagnosed, I felt we needed to get ahead of the potential to spread, to safeguard the seeding of New South Wales," Chant said.
"My key message to all members of the community is regardless of where you've been, please keep presenting for testing. Please present with even the mildest symptoms for testing."
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, whose state will open its borders this Friday to all states and territories except Victoria, welcomed the decision from NSW.
"Last week we made the decision to maintain the border closure with Victoria. I welcome today's decision to close the border between NSW and Victoria," she said.
"We will continue to provide support to Victoria as they continue to deal with their COVID-19 response."
South Australia Premier Steven Marshall announced last week that he would not be reopening the SA border to Victoria on 20 July as originally planned because of the worsening situation in Melbourne.
Speaking to the press today, Marshall said the State's Transition Committee will be meeting tomorrow to discuss the border with New South Wales.
Borders to travellers from Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Tasmania and Queensland into South Australia are already open, meaning visitors from those jurisdictions do not have to complete a two week period of self-isolation.
Victorian case spike over the weekend, more postcodes in lockdown
The move comes after Victoria placed nine tower blocks in Flemington and North Melbourne into a "hard" lockdwon for at least five days over the weekend.
The Premier says there are now 53 cases of COVID-19 associated with the outbreak in the housing commission towers that house around 3,000 people.
Depending on the results of ongoing testing the hard lockdown could last for up to 14 days.
Food and other essential goods are being delivered to residents of the towers, and the buildings are being guarded by Victorian police.
Residents are receiving $1,500 hardship payments and are not required to pay rent for a fornight.
Last week, Victoria placed Melbourne 10 postcodes into lockdown for a four-week period in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the Victorian capital.
The decision was made after health officials completed comprehensive genomic sequencing revealed much of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases could be traced back to breaches of protocol in hotel quarantine.
That list has since expanded and now includes 3031 (Flemington and Kensington) and 2051 (North Melbourne).
The full list of Melbourne postcodes in lockdown:
Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic is showing no signs of slowing down. There are now 11,555,414 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and 536,720 people have died.
In terms of new cases COVID-19 yesterday there were 175,499, and close to 4.5 million active cases internationally.
Yesterday, the USA reported 44,530 new cases of COVID-19, while Brazil and India reported 26,209 and 23,932 new cases respectively.
In Australia there have been 8,583 cases of COVID-19 in total, with 662 active cases as of today, and 105 deaths.
Updated at 10:44am AEST on 6 July 2020.
Author: David Simmons & Matt Ogg