Just as borders looked like being open across the country in time for Christmas travel, the COVID-19 outbreak in South Australia seems to have set plans back.
On Monday, South Australian chief health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier announced 13 new locally acquired cases after three were discovered on Sunday.
West Australia, Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory were quick to swing into action and change the rules relating to South Australians crossing the border and mandating 14-day quarantine for all arrivals from the state.
West Australia was the first to act, changing the rules so that anyone arriving from South Australia at Perth Airport was subject to an immediate COVID-19 test on arrival and given a direction to self-quarantine for 14 days at a suitable premise. These arrivals will also be required to submit to a COVID test on day 11 of their stay in the state.
Anyone arriving in WA by road from SA will also be given a direction to self-quarantine for 14 days in a suitable premise and be required to take a COVID-19 test on day two and day 11 of their stay.
The West Australian government also contacted people who arrived from South Australia in the days immediately prior to the announcement and informed them that they were required to submit to testing and self-quarantine.
The ABC reported that people who entered WA by plane on Monday morning were given the option of flying back to Adelaide after being told of the changes on arrival.
Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner also announced immediate restrictions on South Australian travellers on Monday.
“All of the information that we are getting right now concerns us and there is still so much we don’t for about this outbreak,” Mr Gunner said.
“It is what we don’t know that worries us the most. Given this, we are declaring South Australia a hotspot for the purposes of travel to the Northern Territory effective immediately.”
The NT changes meant that people arriving from South Australia were given the option of supervised quarantine or returning to South Australia.
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein also called on all South Australian visitors who arrived in the state at any time after Monday 9 November to self-isolate.
Queensland also declared Adelaide a hotspot and enforced a ruling of strict 14-day hotel quarantine on visitors from the state.
NSW bucked the trend, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian announcing it would not close the border, despite the Adelaide outbreak.
“We need to learn to live with COVID. You can’t shut down the border and disrupt lives every time there is an outbreak,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“If there was a similar outbreak in New South Wales, we would be arguing that that is no reason to shut off New South Wales citizens from the rest of the country.”
Victoria declared the whole of South Australia a COVID-19 hotspot, but stopped short of closing its border to travellers.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said that instead arrivals from the state will undergo interviews and may require testing.
“There will be a process, a case-by-case basis, when somebody arrives at the airport, we sit down with them, [ask about] symptoms, have they been to any specific locations,” Mr Andrews explained.
“Rapid testing may be a feature of that, I can’t quite confirm that yet but that [will be for] our public health team to look at that because we wouldn’t want to take any chances at all.”
In a small glimmer of hope relating to borders that were shutting again, the Northern Territory also announced that its borders would be open to people from Melbourne from the end of November.
“If you are as safe as we are, then you are welcome here. Melbourne is safe. So very soon Melbourne will be welcome here,” Mr Gunner said.
“From Monday, 30 November, in two weeks’ time, greater Melbourne will no longer be considered a hotspot for the purposes of travel to the Northern Territory.
“So, we can get on the beers again with our Melbourne mates.”
Do you agree with the decision to close the border to travellers from South Australia? What will this mean for Christmas travel?
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