The NSW and Victorian border will close at midnight on Tuesday, according to reports, as Melbourne continues to battle a second surge in coronavirus cases.
It marks the first time the NSW and Victoria border has been closed between the states since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the decision on Monday morning, SBS News reported, saying the state had recorded another coronavirus death, a man in his 90s, and 127 new cases.
This came after the state recorded 108 new cases on Saturday – the second-highest daily total recorded in Victoria since the virus came to the state.
The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) said the decision to close the NSW and Victorian border was disappointing but necessary.
“AFTA will continue to work collaboratively with government at a federal, state and territory level to constructively navigate these incredibly confronting times,” chief executive Darren Rudd said.
“We acknowledge that the primary focus of government and health authorities is protecting lives and containing the spread, whilst also re-booting the economy in a sensible way.”
It comes as Queensland police said they fear Victorian travellers will be smuggled into the Sunshine State to avoid detection, as it begins enforcing new COVID-19 restrictions.
New Queensland rules, which came into effect on Friday, now require travellers arriving from Victoria to quarantine in a hotel for 14 days, at their own cost of around $3,000.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told ABC News she had received an operational briefing from police concerned about people-smuggling in the back of trucks and cars crossing the border.
“Yes, they do have some concerns that that practice could be in place,” she told the national broadcaster.
“So what we say to everyone out there is, if you are thinking about doing it, don’t do it.”
Premier Palaszczuk said trucks along with other vehicles crossing the Queensland border would be stopped and checked for undeclared passengers.
“If you are thinking about doing it, you will be hit with a fine,” she told ABC News.
“Trucks will also be randomly stopped and if you are a truck driver participating in this you will also get fined as well.”
Queensland’s borders are expected to open to all interstate travellers – except those from Victoria – from 10 July, but visitors will need to apply for border passes stating they have not visited a COVID hot spot.
However, border restrictions impacting travellers arriving from Victoria will remain in effect for the foreseeable future to prevent COVID-19 transmission from Melbourne’s hot spots.
Anyone caught flouting the new restrictions faces a $4,000 fine.
AMA calls for states, territories to pause easing of COVID-19 restrictions
The news comes after a Melbourne man, believed to have originated from a coronavirus hotspot, was intercepted by authorities at Sydney’s Central Station.
New public health orders now ban anyone from a Victorian hotspot from entering NSW.
Meanwhile, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has urged states and territories to temporarily pause the easing of COVID-19 restrictions until there are “clear signs and evidence” that the spikes in new coronavirus cases in Melbourne hotspots are under control.
The call came after 108 new COVID-19 cases were recorded on Saturday, leading to stay-at-home orders for two additional postcodes and thousands of people, and a ‘hard lockdown’ for nine public housing towers – affecting around 3,000 people.
This is on top of 10 postcodes affecting 300,000 plus residents already announced, the AMA said.
“These new outbreaks send a strong signal that the other states should rethink the pace of easing of their COVID-19 restrictions until community transmission in Melbourne is under control to avoid the risk of a similar situation playing out in their own communities,” AMA president Tony Bartone said.
“Before rushing back to the pub, the footy crowds, or the big weddings and parties, Australia should pause and play it safe until the Melbourne hotspots are back under control.”
[PLEASE NOTE: This story has been updated since it was first published to include commentary from AFTA.]
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