Australian states and territories have acted swiftly to rising coronavirus cases in Sydney and Melbourne with a swathe of border closures announced in the last 24 hours.
Having been completely free to travel for a brief period in December, many Australians will start the new year cut off from interstate family reunions and holidays.
The swift action has been triggered by a surge in cases in NSW and Victoria, with a combined 36 locally acquired cases announced in the past two days.
While NSW’s 10 cases on Thursday dropped from Wednesday’s 18, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the situation across the state remained “extremely volatile”.
Victoria announced three locally acquired cases on Thursday for its previous 24-hour reporting period, with a further five revealed throughout the day. The cases brought its two-month streak without the virus in the community to an end.
While Premier Daniel Andrews reassured his state and the nation Victoria was now well equipped to handle emerging clusters it didn’t stop precautionary action from other states.
Western Australia Covid border restrictions
In what has become a characteristic move from Premier Mark McGowan’s government, Western Australia was swift to announce a hard border with Victoria on Thursday.
The hard border with Victoria came into effect from New Year's Day with Acting Premier and Health Minister Roger Cook admitting it was "terrible timing".
The government has revised Victoria's status to one of medium risk, effectively barring travel to WA.
Only people granted exemptions will be allowed to enter, while West Australians returning home will be required to quarantine for 14 days.
I have some important and urgent changes to outline regarding WA's border controls with Victoria.
This includes a change to the classification of Victoria under the controlled border regime, and conditions which will impact recent arrivals from Victoria.https://t.co/k2j0COpE7i pic.twitter.com/QC6fsmJKjz
— Mark McGowan (@MarkMcGowanMP) December 31, 2020
Any Victorians who arrived in WA on or after December 21 will also need to self-isolate for 14 days from when they first entered the state.
That will apply to about 16,000 people, although some may already have left after Christmas celebrations.
Those still in WA will have to take a coronavirus test on day 11 or at any time if they develop symptoms.
The same rules are already in place in regard to NSW.
Victoria Covid restrictions
As it faces its own surge in coronavirus cases, Victoria has opted to shut out NSW.
Victorians have been given until 11.59pm on Friday to return to the state.
Anyone who returns on Friday must self-isolate for 14 days and get tested.
If people returned on Thursday, they will be able to end their isolation early if they receive a negative test result.
Those in Greater Sydney, Northern Beaches or the Central Coast cannot enter while those in Wollongong and the Blue Mountains needed to return before the turn of the year.
The ABC’s medical commentator and face of their coronavirus coverage, Dr Norman Swan, praised the decision.
“They just can't mess around. Particularly if they're not confident that New South Wales is getting this under control,” he said.
South Australia’s restrictions
South Australia has imposed a hard border closure with NSW as authorities also monitor concerning COVID-19 cases in Victoria.
The NSW measures apply from New Year's Day with only returning SA residents, people permanently relocating and essential travellers exempt from the new rules.
We are enforcing a hard border with NSW from midnight tonight.
Only South Australians returning from NSW & people permanently relocating to SA can enter. They must self isolate for 14 days.
Essential Travellers will be permitted including cross border community members. pic.twitter.com/NcmS92Hxbk
— Steven Marshall, MP (@marshall_steven) December 31, 2020
Returning residents or people relocating will still need to quarantine for 14 days and can only make that trip once.
A 100-kilometre buffer zone will also be put in place on the SA-NSW border to allow cross-border residents free movement across the state line.
Premier Steven Marshall says South Australia is also closely watching the situation in Victoria where a cluster in Melbourne grew to eight infections on Thursday.
Northern Territory restrictions
The Northern Territory on Thursday revised its public health orders to bar entry for all residents of greater Sydney.
Anyone arriving in the NT from Sydney after midnight Thursday will be subject to a fortnight of mandatory quarantine at their own cost.
"Further to this, we are watching very closely NSW and particularly Metropolitan Melbourne ... and we won't hesitate to declare further hot spot regions," NT Health Minister Natasha Fyles said on Thursday.
There was no change for Tasmania on Thursday with its border open to all travellers from "low risk" areas.
The only restrictions in place are for those travelling to Tasmania from the Greater Sydney region.
As Sydney is defined as a "medium risk" area, travellers who arrive in Tasmania will be required to quarantine for 14 days at their own expense.
While NSW residents or anyone who has visited the state remain shut out, there was no update on Victoria on Thursday.
The ACT remains shut to the Northern Beaches, Greater Sydney, Central Coast and Wollongong.
Anyone from those areas who wishes to travel to the ACT must contact ACT Health and must quarantine for 14 days on approval.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who has always stressed she would refrain from closing the state’s border until absolutely necessary, continues to leave its border open.
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