For our free coronavirus pandemic coverage, learn more here.
Hundreds of extra police are being deployed to the border with NSW after the Victorian government announced it would close it from midnight to all residents from NSW and the ACT to protect the state against the highly infectious Delta variant running rampant across Greater Sydney.
NSW recorded its first death this year, of an unvaccinated woman in her 90s, and is bracing for at least 100 new cases on Monday, but the ACT has had no cases for more than a year, and says it has been unfairly included as a red zone.
Victoria has shut the border to all of NSW and the ACT. Police stop cars entering a checkpoint between Albury and Wodonga on Sunday. Credit:Jason Robins
From just before midnight on Sunday, non-residents from the whole of NSW and the ACT are barred from entering Victoria, while Victorian residents will still be able to return home but they must quarantine at home for 14 days.
Victoria’s public health team has grown increasingly concerned about the deepening coronavirus crisis in NSW as daily case numbers in Sydney climbed to 77 on Sunday, including 42 people who were in the community for either part of or all of their infectious period.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has conceded her government cannot predict when Sydney’s lockdown will end, prompting NSW and the Commonwealth to try to devise a new scheme to protect jobs, including a federal overhaul of disaster payments that might need to be available for weeks to people unable to work.
The new-look federal assistance would aim to ease the system for people in lockdown for more than two weeks who under the current scheme must now make a fresh application every week for the $500 disaster payment when a lockdown lasts for more than seven days.
The Victorian government confirmed late Saturday that hundreds of extra police would be deployed along the border after 260 police where sent at the end of June when Victoria first designated Greater Sydney as a red zone. The federal government has confirmed it would not be sending the army to patrol borders.
Victoria Police said in a statement it would “actively patrol the border” and would “increase visibility with more members and patrols”. The extra resources would not diminish the ability to police other regions, and warned that on-the-spot fines of $5452 applied to those breaching orders and that people “will be turned away at the border.”
Residents in border towns will be largely unaffected by the changes that came into effect at 11.59pm on Sunday, with locals allowed to freely travel across state lines, proving their identity by showing their driver’s licence.
Australia’s top medical experts met at 1.30pm on Sunday to discuss the situation in Greater Sydney, and by 4pm Victoria’s acting Chief Health Officer announced the border would be shut to all of NSW and the ACT over fears there could potentially be unidentified cases in regional towns.
Premier Daniel Andrews, with Health Minister Martin Foley, at the opening of the Victorian Pride Centre on Sunday, before the border closure was announced. Credit:Luis Ascui
“Border closures are a matter for state governments. Our general sense is that we don’t support it from the Commonwealth [perspective],” Professor Kelly said. “Victorians remember last winter [and] they want to make sure they are protected. That’s a matter of course for the elected government of Victoria to consider.
“It’s not an easy thing to do to close the border with NSW. There are many, many places that people can cross that border so I’m sure it will be a decision not taken lightly.”
Despite the border bubble arrangements remaining in place, City of Wodonga mayor and Albury resident Kevin Poulton, said each time the border was shut, it caused “anxiety and nervousness”.
He said there would be a severe effect on border communities if a large police checkpoint was erected between the two cities, with residents forced to spend “hours in queues of traffic”.
“Sometimes when you’re a cross-border resident, you’ll be travelling across the border four, five, six times a day depending on your industry,” Cr Poulton said.
“What you’ll notice tomorrow is that everyone here will snap back into working from home mode until it’s clear whether there will be a checkpoint or not. While that’s not as grand an impact on the economy as shutting down an entire capital city, for all border communities, it’s a huge impact each time.”
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant urged older people who had received one dose of the AstraZeneca to bring forward their second dose to six weeks after a woman in her 90s, believed to be unvaccinated, died with COVID-19.
The woman was from south-western Sydney, where the latest outbreak is presently concentrated, and is the first death of the cluster that originated from an unvaccinated limousine driver who caught the Delta variant of the virus while transporting airline staff to hotel quarantine on June 11.
Of the 77 cases reported on Sunday, 39 were in Fairfield and nine were in the adjacent local government area of Canterbury-Bankstown. Two of the cases were in the City of Sydney, while Waverley also recorded two COVID-19 cases.
Ms Berejiklian said more than 50 were close family members of COVID-19 cases. She told people to brace for further coronavirus cases, saying she “would be shocked” if there were fewer than 100 new cases on Monday.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is expecting more than 100 cases on Monday. Credit:Dean Sewell
The Andrews government has for days warned Victorians in regional NSW to return home, foreshadowing a movement on travel restrictions.
Mr Andrews issued a stern warning to anyone trying to travel into Victoria without the appropriate permit: “You’ve got every chance of becoming very, very famous if you do not comply with those conditions. I don’t want that to happen. I want everyone to play their part.”
Victoria recorded no new cases of coronavirus in the community or in hotel quarantine on Sunday from more than 23,000 people who were tested. Almost 13,000 people received their COVID-19 vaccine.
The Police Association Victoria secretary Wayne Gatt said he supported the force opting for a mobile model of policing over a “ring of steel” option, which they found was less effective and more disruptive for border communities.
“We called for this last time because the ring of steel approach wasn’t efficient, and it wasn’t effective,” Mr Gatt said.
“We could see people moving around us in places and roads we couldn’t target. This gives us the flexibility and a degree of unpredictability. This means we can move around, be in the areas we think are highest risk and use technology to aid the police response.
“These operations, including the unrelenting hotel quarantine, are having an aggregate impact on our capacity to police local communities.”
With Abbir Dib
Stay across the most crucial developments related to the pandemic with the Coronavirus Update. Sign up for the weekly newsletter.
Most Viewed in Politics
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article