Victoria’s COVID-19 restrictions have extended to the NSW Central Coast after new positive cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the state’s Northern Beaches cluster today.
Under Victoria’s “traffic light” rules, the Central Coast is now an “orange zone”, meaning any people entering Victoria in coming days, or who have already entered Victoria and who have visited the Central Coast since December 19, must now get tested and isolate immediately until they receive a negative result.
Anyone who has visited Sydney COVID-19 hotspots will have to quarantine for two weeks if they enter Victoria.
Victorian health authorities held an emergency meeting tonight, to decide if the border would be closed to all residents from greater Sydney.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Victoria Police are making preparations for checkpoints and will be requesting defence force support.
Further announcements will be made tomorrow morning.
The changes come into force as Victoria reaches 50 days of no cases of locally transmitted COVID-19.
Victorian health minister Martin Foley confirmed today that the borders would also be closed to residents from Greater Sydney if the outbreak worsened significantly.
“That will mean anyone who has been in Sydney will not be allowed into Victoria,” he said.
In hope of containing the outbreak, he has meanwhile warned Sydneysiders to stay away.
“I know it’s a tough message, particularly at this time of year, but please don’t come,” Mr Foley said.
“If we have to make a hard border at the border, we’ll do that,” added Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton.
“We’re watching extremely closely over this next 24-48-hour period.”
As of midnight last night a permit system is now in place to limit anyone who arriving from a red zone from entering Victoria unless they have an exemption.
The permit system will operate on a “traffic light system” and will apply to the whole of NSW.
People from the Northern Beaches area and anyone who has been exposed to the high-risk sites will not be issued a permit.
Victoria’s traffic light permit system
Red Zone – Northern Beaches and hotspot locations since December 11: permits not available, travellers not permitted to enter
Amber Zone – Greater Sydney area: permits available, but all travellers must get tested and isolate until they get a result
Green Zone – regional NSW: permits granted, get tested if symptoms develop
“If you do come from those red zones, you will be spending your Christmas in quarantine,” Mr Foley said.
Six red zone travellers have already been forced into quarantine: two unaccompanied minors, now in isolation with their mother; and three close contacts of the cluster — a frontline worker and two community members unable to isolate at home.
Residents from Greater Sydney will be issued a permit through the traffic light system, while those from regional NSW will be granted a permit.
So far since midnight, more than 89,000 permits have been issued.
All arrivals are advised to get tested — a recommendation which has seen enormous queues at Melbourne Hospital.
Extra measures have been implemented at Melbourne airport as the state ramps up its protection measures for interstate arrivals.
Seven flights have already touched down in Melbourne airport from Sydney with all arrivals being met by authorised officers as soon as they touch down, and passengers being tested for COVID-19 at the airport.
Officers have been checking passengers’ permits, boarding passes and handing out any relevant health information.
Two COVID-19 testing facilities have been set up at the airport to provide temperature screening and COVID-19 tests.
But 9News understands there is some confusion. With the information provided saying testing for those from the amber zone is merely “encouraged”, some passengers have been seen bypassing testing stations and leaving the terminal.
From today, anyone inside an airport terminal must wear a fitted face covering and Victorian health officials have strongly recommended people wear a mask while travelling on interstate flights.
Passengers have flocked into the state in case of a hard border closure.
“I had a flight booked next week but I thought I’d get in as soon as possible,” one passenger told 9News.
“It is pretty scary,” said another.
“Very concerned about being home for Christmas, and so very, very happy to be back in Melbourne now,” said another.
While the majority of Sydney travellers are still allowed into the state, rising figures could prompt a further tightening of border measures between the two states.
With few motorists being stopped at the border at Albury, there are also concerns about the road borders into Victoria.
Victoria closed to South Australia after just 17 cases were recorded last month raising concern similar measures could be implemented for NSW.
There are now 39 cases associated with the Northern Beach cluster, 13 of which were announced today.
While Victoria has now marked more than seven weeks with no new community cases, two new cases were detected today in hotel quarantine: a teenage girl and a woman in her 30s, who was a member of an international flight crew that arrived in Melbourne.
The total active caseload stands at 10.
Professor Sutton stressed international flight staff are “trying to do absolutely the right thing,” and following strict protocol.
He said while “the risk is there,” chances of the virus “reseeding” in Melbourne are “very low”.