Christmas plans for thousands of Australians have been thrown into chaos with states and territories rushing to introduce new restrictions after Sydney’s Northern Beaches coronavirus cluster grew to 17 cases.
Overnight, leaders and chief health officers across the country held emergency meetings to decide what new restrictions to impose on travellers from NSW, with many opting for two-week quarantine periods for those most likely to have come into contact with the Northern Beaches cluster (full details below).
They have also warned the next few days will be critical to determine if NSW has contained the outbreak to the Sydney suburbs already affected or whether it will grow to potentially jeopardise Christmas for many more.
Here’s what we know so far from each state:
NSW Health has asked locals in the Northern Beaches area to stay in their homes and to not visit friends or relatives unless “essential”.
To date, it is not a public health order but a request. That may change in the coming days.
Authorities have also asked that people from outside the area not to enter the Northern Beaches area between Palm Beach and the Spit Bridge.
This impacts approximately 250,000 residents — and potentially thousands more who were planning to drive to the area or from the area for Christmas Day.
“At this time, we request that people from outside the area should avoid unnecessary travel to the Northern Beaches,” NSW Health said in a statement.
Queensland has issued new restrictions for travellers from Sydney’s Northern Beaches, including mandatory hotel quarantine from Saturday.
Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young released the details late on Thursday night.
- Anyone who was in the Northern Beaches region on or since Friday, December 11 and is already in Queensland should get tested and quarantine in their home or accommodation for 14 days from the date they left the Northern Beaches.
- Anyone who was in the Northern Beaches region on or since Friday, December 11 and arrives in Queensland on a flight from Sydney after midnight tonight must get tested and quarantine in their home or accommodation for 14 days from the date they left the Northern Beaches.
- Anyone who was in the Northern Beaches region on or since Friday, December 11 and arrives in Queensland on a flight from Sydney after 1am on Saturday, December 19 must go into hotel quarantine at their own expense for 14 days from the date they left the Northern Beaches, and get tested.
This includes both interstate visitors and Queensland residents returning home.
“We will continue to closely monitor the situation and will provide an update tomorrow morning,” Dr Young said.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk earlier announced on Twitter that anyone who has been in the Northern Beaches region since December 11 will not be able to visit Queensland residential aged care centres, hospitals or correctional facilities.
Queensland authorities have said they will be monitoring the situation in NSW “very closely”.
All NSW arrivals into Western Australia are now required to self-quarantine for 14 days and have a COVID-19 test on day 11.
People who had been in NSW at any time from December 11, and had arrived in WA before today, will have to self-quarantine, front for a COVID-19 test as soon as possible, and stay isolated until a negative result is returned.
They too will have to take another COVID-19 test on the 11th day since their arrival in WA.
Premier Mark McGowan has not ruled out the return of a hard border.
“We will continue to monitor the situation in New South Wales very closely and provide any further updates when necessary and appropriate,” he said in a statement.
“We are very concerned there will be many more community cases in NSW.”
The Northern Territory has declared Sydney’s Northern Beaches a coronavirus hotspot and will force any travellers from the area to isolate immediately.
“Anyone travelling to the Northern Territory from Northern Beaches Council LGA will need to undertake 14 days of mandatory, supervised quarantine in either Alice Springs or Darwin,” the Department of Chief Minister and Cabinet said in a statement overnight.
“If you are intending to travel to the Northern Territory from an identified COVID-19 hotspot you are advised to rethink your plans. If you are a Territorian intending to travel to a hotspot you are advised to rethink your plans.
“If you travel to Northern Beaches Council LGA while it is a declared hotspot, you will be required to undertake 14 days mandatory, supervised quarantine on your return at a cost of $2500 per person.
“Anyone who has already arrived in the Northern Territory from Northern Beaches Council LGA on or after the December 11 needs to arrange for a COVID-19 test and self-quarantine whilst awaiting the test results.”
Chief Health Officer Dr Hugh Heggie said the new restrictions had “been made rapidly” and decisions in the coming days will be critical to contain the Sydney cluster.
There is no word yet if the new cases will affect border movements between NSW and South Australia.
Currently SA Health recommends that people who have recently returned from NSW to monitor updates closely and self isolate if they have visited the locations on the dates specified by NSW Health.
Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services says it is working closely with NSW Health to ensure any people who have visited the high-risk locations in NSW “immediately get tested and self isolate”.
It said in a statement overnight:
- Anyone who was in the Northern Beaches region or other NSW exposure sites on or since Friday, December 11 and is already in Victoria should get tested and quarantine in their home or accommodation for 14 days from the date they left the Northern Beaches.
- Anyone who was in the Northern Beaches region or other NSW exposure sites on or since Friday, December 11 and arrives in Victoria after 12.01am on Friday, December 18, must get tested and quarantine in their home or accommodation for 14 days from the date they left the Northern Beaches.
The Victorian Government will announce further advice for travellers arriving from the Northern Beaches or other NSW exposure sites after midnight on Saturday, December 19, later today.
Anyone from NSW who is in Victoria and who has even the slightest symptoms is urged to get tested immediately.
Tasmania has banned any travellers who have been in Sydney’s Northern Beaches unless approved as an Essential Traveller.
“Anyone already in Tasmania who has been in this area or visited these premises is asked to self-isolate immediately and call the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738 (Monday- Friday 8am-7pm; Saturday-Sunday 9am-5pm) to book a COVID-19 test,” the Tasmanian government said in a statement overnight.
“Travellers should advise the hotline that they have been in the identified area or an identified premises.