Covid-19: Victoria shutting border with NSW as eight new cases end state’s two-month clean run

Victoria will shut its border to NSW at midnight on Friday, after revealing eight new Covid-19 cases in 24 hours, ending the state’s two-month run of zero local cases.

Acting Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan announced the tightened measures on Thursday as the state recorded five more cases of Covid-19, in addition to the three women who were confirmed positive on Wednesday.

Victoria will close its border to all of NSW from 11.59pm on Friday, January 1, with the whole state becoming a “red zone”. The border will close to people travelling from Wollongong and the Blue Mountains at 11.59pm on Thursday.

Allan announced the decision at a late afternoon press conference on Thursday as thousands of Victorians continued to return from holidays in NSW.

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She said anyone returning to Victoria from NSW on Friday would have to isolate themselves for 14 days on arrival, regardless of whether they returned a negative test for Covid-19.

Those who return from a “green zone” – covering much of regional NSW, excluding Wollongong, the Central Coast and the Blue Mountains – on Thursday would need to get tested and isolate until they return a negative test.

Allan said Victoria’s border with the ACT will remain open.

“This is not an easy choice … certainly not one we wanted to be making and announcing on a day that is supposed to be about celebrating,” she said.

“Unfortunately the virus doesn’t expire at midnight tonight and we have to remain vigilant.

“We have to do everything we possibly can to lock in the situation we have here in Victoria, keep ahead of where case numbers might be, especially in light of case numbers coming out of NSW and to protect the precious gains we have achieved over the course of 2020 here in Victoria.”

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Security ask people to leave the Sydney Opera House as the area closes to the public due to Covid-19 restrictions amid a new outbreak of the virus in Sydney.

Victorians have been told to brace for more cases as there were close contacts showing coronavirus symptoms.

“There is the potential that there will be more cases … some of the close contacts are showing symptoms, and we will need to wait for the results,” Allan said.

“That is why the public health team has given the advice to immediately move to the announcements the government has made today.”

Victoria’s testing chief, Jeroen Weimar, said the women reported as positive cases on Wednesday night were all linked to the same restaurant in Black Rock at the same time for about an hour on December 21.

Two of the women, from Mentone and Hallam, were family members and dined at the restaurant, he said. The third woman, from Mitcham, was unrelated. She was not at the restaurant, but a close contact of hers was there at the same time as the other women.

“We believe that is a connection point between the three cases we have seen,” Weimar said.

“Different tables. It highlights the highly infectious nature of the virus which is that these two groups of people are entirely unconnected with each other, and have no direct knowledge of each other.”

He said the three new cases revealed on Thursday morning had been found via contact tracing overnight.

“Those people are all getting good support and care, we will continue to work with them to identify any contacts they have, and any secondary contacts,” he said.

“As we recall, our approach to these cases is not just to deal with close contacts but also contacts of contacts, we will be putting out a further ring and asking anyone who knows those close contacts to also isolate, to get tested.”

University of Melbourne epidemiologist Tony Blakely said Australia would continue to have outbreaks for as long as it allowed people to return from Britain, the US and other places with high infection rates – as hotel quarantine would never be perfect.

“This incursion of the virus will happen again and again until we’re vaccinated enough,” he said.

“When we get our first 100,000 doses of vaccine, they should be applied completely to the border control quarantine, airport, and airline staff to make an extra barrier around the arrival of people from high-infection countries.”

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