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Victoria upgrades border ban to Greater Sydney

written by Adam Thorn | June 25, 2021
A Rex Saab 340B, VH-EKX, flying past Melbourne YMML air traffic control station (Victor Pody)
A Rex Saab 340B, VH-EKX, flying past Melbourne YMML air traffic control station (Victor Pody)

Victoria on Thursday night upgraded its NSW border ban to include all of Greater Sydney and Wollongong after 11 new cases were announced from the Bondi cluster.

On Friday, 225 flights to and from Sydney Airport have been cancelled with more likely to be announced later in the day.

It comes after Queensland similarly upgraded its restrictions to include all of Greater Sydney and following tough restrictions introduced by WA, SA, Tasmania and the ACT.

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The last time states and territories locked out NSW at Christmas due to the Northern Beaches cluster, it cost Qantas alone $400 million.

Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino confirmed the new rules would apply from 11:59pm on Thursday night and would remain in place for a fortnight.

The decision was made after a man in his 60s attended a social event in Sydney and then returned to Melbourne via a Jetstar flight, before testing positive. A workmate of that person then subsequently contracted COVID, too.

The border closures on Thursday led to Prime Minister Scott Morrison arguing that anyone who has been inoculated should be free to move around Australia.

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On Wednesday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian introduced some of the toughest restrictions on citizens since the original lockdown – including wearing masks in offices.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk earlier said the decision to shut the border to thousands of Sydneysiders was made over “serious concerns” surrounding the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus, which is currently spreading in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.

“We can’t afford to have this variant out,” she said.

Chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young again warned Queenslanders against travelling to greater Sydney or Wollongong during the upcoming school holiday period.

“At the start of this pandemic, I spoke about 15 minutes of close contact being a concern – now it looks like it’s five or 10 seconds,” Dr Young said.

“​​​​​We’re seeing very fleeting contact leading to transmission … the risk is so much higher now than it was only a year ago.”

The WA government also revised its label on NSW from ‘very low risk’ to ‘medium risk’, which effectively means travellers who have been anywhere in NSW within the last 14 days are no longer permitted into WA without an exemption.

Premier Mark McGowan said the decision to close the border to all of NSW has been done in order to keep the WA community safe.

“Naturally these immediate changes will cause inconvenience, but the hard border is necessary to protect the health of Western Australians,” he said. “I want to thank everyone for their understanding.”

Shortly after, South Australia announced it is shutting its border to NSW with immediate effect.

Non-residents who have been in NSW within the last 14 days will not be permitted to enter South Australia without an exemption, including people currently in transit.

The decision affected two 737s then in mid-air. SA authorities said the decision to return passengers wouldn’t affect local residents returning home, and all people would be dealt with on a “case-by-case basis for those who are in the air”.

The hard border excludes a 100-kilometre buffer zone for cross border communities along the SA-NSW border.

Meanwhile, New Zealand announced it would pause the trans-Tasman bubble to NSW for the second time on Tuesday night for three days. On Thursday, the country announced this would be extended for a further 12 days.

New Zealand’s COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said initially that while the risk to health remains low, there were still “several unknowns” that led to the country taking a “precautionary approach”.

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