The NSW and Victoria border will be closed as of Tuesday night as coronavirus cases increase in the southeast state.
The decision was made after discussions between the state’s premiers as well as Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Monday the border would be closed from 11.59pm Tuesday.
“That is the result of a phone hook-up between the prime minister and the premier of NSW and myself just an hour or so ago, where all of us agreed that the best thing to do is close the border,” he said.
“That closure will be enforced on the NSW side, so as not to be a drain on resources that are very much focused on fighting the virus right now across our state.
“I am grateful to the premier of NSW for her support.”
The border between the two states has remained open throughout the health crisis, as towns share infrastructure, including the Albury-Wodonga Health public hospital.
"I'm not interested in closing our borders I don't think that makes a lot of sense for us," Mr Andrews said in March.
The decision comes as Victoria records an increasing number of coronavirus outbreaks, with 127 new cases recorded on Monday, and 74 cases announced on Sunday.
Mr Andrews said 31 Victorians were in hospital, with five in intensive care. A man in his 90s also passed away overnight, taking the state’s death toll to 21.
Cases of coronavirus in Melbourne are expected to continue growing as the state tests more people in hotspot zones and residents are locked down in public housing towers.
Border closure a ‘precautionary measure’
Mr Andrews said closing the border would help contain the spread of the virus.
“This is one of those precautionary measures,” he said.
“And what it means, for instance, is that many staff who are currently being employed or deployed to take temperatures, to do all sorts of coordination work, whether it be at our airports or at train stations, for instance, will no longer have to do that work and can potentially be redeployed into arguably much more important roles.”
Mr Andrews apologised for any inconvenience the decision caused for people who had unavoidable travel to NSW, and ensured a permit system would be put in place for them.
People who live in border communities and need to travel for work or to access essential health services will also be allowed to cross.
Mr Andrews said it was about limiting movement outside of Victoria.
“This is the right approach to take at this time given the still unacceptably high numbers of cases and the fact that our focus should really be exclusively on testing and finding the close contacts of those positive cases and limiting the spread of this virus,” he said.
New coronavirus phenomena in Victoria
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters on Monday she did not want Victorians to feel they were being singled out.
“This could very well be NSW at some stage in the future,” she said.
“This is very much a team effort. This decision was taken through consulting the prime minister and also consulting [Mr Andrews] in Victoria.
“I want to stress that what is occurring in Victoria is a new phenomena in Australia and we don’t want that to occur in NSW and we have taken this action.
“This is the first time where we have had major community transmission, not based on overseas travel.”
Ms Berejiklian called on Australian states, with the exception of Victoria, to open their borders to NSW.
People returning to NSW to self-isolate
Ms Berejiklian said there would be exemptions and anticipated there would still be some flights and train services available.
“There will be NSW residents returning home. So for that reason we do anticipate there will still be flights and obviously passenger train services, but only for those people who have got permits and only for those who are returning NSW residents,” she said.
“They will absolutely have to self-isolate. We will be relying on them to self-isolate.”
Ms Berejiklian said people could apply for permits and exemptions through Service NSW online.
“I want to stress that what is occurring in Victoria has not yet occurred anywhere else in Australia. It is a new part of the pandemic and, as such, requires a new type of response.”
Ms Berejiklian said anybody who felt they would be impacted by the border closure could apply for a permit.
“I suspect many people in Albury-Wodonga will ... they can get a piece of paper and with that one piece of paper they will have access during the course of the closure,” she said.
“But can I ask those communities for patience? It will take us two to three days too get those systems in place, so for the next two to three days it will be very difficult for our border communities.
“We want everyone to stay home until we get that service up and running. Service NSW anticipates that will be as soon as tomorrow.”
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.