COVID-19 travel restrictions entered new territory on Monday afternoon when New South Wales announced it would close the border at midnight on Tuesday after talks between the two states and Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
The midnight Tuesday travel restrictions apply to all Victorian residents apart from Melburnians for whom the ban begins immediately after the entire city – and not just a handful of suburbs – was reclassified as a coronavirus hotspot.
Victoria has recorded its highest-ever daily increase in cases – 127. A man in his 90s died of the virus in hospital overnight on Sunday and another man in his 60s passed away on Monday morning. The nation’s COVID-19 death toll is now 106 and there are 645 Victorians ill with the virus.
Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton said the new cases included another 26 from the nine high-rise towers in northern Melbourne suburbs that were locked down on Saturday. The number of cases in the towers has doubled since Sunday.
NSW was the only state accepting Victorians until today. The decision to shut the border for the first time in 100 years was made during a conference involving Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Mr Morrison.
The border closure would be policed by NSW authorities with NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller warning of major delays at crossings.
“I’m grateful it will be enforced on the NSW side of the border so that it’s not a resource burden for us,” Mr Andrews said.
“We have got quite a bit to go on with at the moment and that’s where our focus and energies have been … and will remain.”
He explained that a ‘permit system’ would allow residents of border communities, such as Albury-Wodonga to pass between the two states to go to work, study or undertake other essential business.
NSW residents returning to their home state from Victoria would be required to self-isolate for 14 days, as is currently required when returning from a hotspot.
Ms Berejiklian said NSW police were already at border crossings to enforce a ban that prevents residents from Melbourne’s 12 ‘hotspot’ postcodes from entering the state.
“While I do appreciate it is an inconvenience for some people, I don’t think today’s announcement will surprise anyone, given what is happening in Victoria,” Ms Berejiklian said. “There will always be exemptions, so we do anticipate there will be some flights and passenger trains.”
There are 55 NSW-Victorian border crossings – four primary crossings, 33 bridges, two waterway crossings and multiple smaller roads. Mr Fuller said he was well aware of the “enormity” of the task.
Meanwhile, Woolworths has cancelled online deliveries from a major distribution centre in West Footscray after an employee tested positive to COVID-19 and a Bunnings store in Craigieburn is undergoing a deep clean after an employee there tested positive.
And the Victorian Public Tenants Association has criticised the sudden lockdown of more than 3000 tenants in nine affected tower blocks in northern Melbourne suburbs, saying residents were unprepared and many were left without enough groceries and other supplies.
“It was just done in a pretty ham-fisted manner,” executive officer Mark Feenane told Nine’s Today Show on Monday.
Mr Andrews announced that the government was delivering food and medical supplies to residents and making $1500 hardship payments to those who could not work and $750 to anyone not in the workforce.
Police are guarding every entrance of the housing estates and residents cannot leave their homes for any reason for at least five days.
Does the closure affect any travel plans you may have made? Do you understand why Victorians are now banned from entering all other states and territories? Do you believe Victoria has handled the challenges as well as possible?
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