The Victorian government has closed its border to all of NSW and the ACT overnight, extending the range of its previous closure, which only included the Greater Sydney region.
The border closure, which saw all of NSW and ACT become a ‘red zone’ under Victoria’s permit system, came into effect from 11:59pm on Sunday night.
The news came after NSW reported another 77 cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, despite having just entered its third week of lockdown.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said she is anticipating the state to record over 100 new local cases in today’s announcement.
Meanwhile, Victoria has recorded its 11th straight day with no new locally acquired COVID-19 infections.
From today, no travellers will be allowed into Victoria from NSW and the ACT, except for returning Victorians who will be required to apply for a permit and enter 14 days of mandatory quarantine, or people with an exemption.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews hinted at the state’s intentions to shut the border earlier on Sunday, and urged Victorians still in NSW to get home as soon as possible.
“Be quick about it. Border conditions can change,” Premier Andrews said.
“We have been abundantly clear: Don’t delay, come back today.”
“If you do the wrong thing you will be found, you will be fined and you have every chance of becoming very, very famous,” he added.
“So please do as you are asked. It is the right thing to do. We do not want the virus here in our state.”
Over the weekend, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk also hinted that Queensland authorities may similarly move to extend their border restrictions to the rest of NSW.
“We’re going to be looking at that very closely,” she said.
“The eyes of Australia really are on Sydney with the epicentre of the Delta strain because our biggest concern is if that is not contained and brought under control it’ll spread throughout the country.”
Victorian authorities have followed South Australia and Western Australia in including the ACT in its blanket border closure to NSW, a move that was heavily criticised by Canberra Airport CEO Stephen Byron.
Byron went so far as to advocate for the cancellation of flights between the nation’s capital and both Adelaide and Perth in light of their “unlawful” border closures with the ACT.
According to the airport’s chief executive, despite not reporting a locally transmitted case of COVID-19 in the ACT since July 2020, both South Australia and Western Australia have remained closed to the ACT since last month, in light of Sydney’s recent outbreak.
“These governments are shutting down our business and putting people out of work, and there is no lawful reason why,” he said.
“It’s as if Premier Mark McGowan and Premier Steve Marshall think Canberra is an outer suburb of Sydney, and that’s just embarrassing.”
In response to the criticism, SA Premier Marshall made it clear that despite the ACT’s stronghold on COVID-19 cases, its border near NSW is too “porous”.
“We would like to ease the border restrictions there are between [the] ACT and SA but because of the Delta variant and our concerns there, we won’t be doing that today, but we will keep a close eye on that,” he said.
SA chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier similarly argued that the ACT’s location near NSW is its sore spot, deeming the state too much of a risk.
“I think it’s fantastic that they haven’t had a case but unfortunately because of the way it is placed geographically within New South Wales, and there’s a large amount of traffic between those two areas because they are both large cities and there’s obviously a lot of business travel and also student travel between those two sites,” she said.