Victoria to close borders to all of NSW, reimpose mandatory masks

Victorian authorities have implemented new physical distancing restrictions, after recording three additional coronavirus infections on Thursday.

Hundreds of primary and secondary contacts of eight positive coronavirus cases are isolating in Victoria.

Hundreds of primary and secondary contacts of eight positive coronavirus cases are isolating in Victoria. Source: AAP

Victoria will close its borders to all of NSW from midnight 1 January, giving residents just one day to return home or risk being locked out.
 
Acting Premier Jacinta Allan made the announcement on Thursday afternoon, after her initial press conference in the morning.
 
"This is not an easy choice, closing border, putting in place restrictions is never an easy choice to make. [It is] certainly not one we wanted to be making and announcing on a day that is supposed to be about celebrating," she told reporters on New Year's Eve.
 
Victoria closes border with NSW over new COVID-19 cluster

 
Those returning will have to undergo a COVID-19 test within 24 hours and go into quarantine for 14 days.
 
ACT residents will be able to apply for a permit that will allow entry to Victoria.

Previously, residents in Greater Sydney, the Northern Beaches, were locked out of NSW under 'red zones'.
 
Restrictions on those in Wollongong and the Blue Mountains are due to come into effect on midnight Thursday.
 
The red zones are now being extended to the entire state. 
 
She acknowledged it would be difficult for potentially tens of thousands of Victorians in NSW whose holiday and travel plans have been disrupted. 
 
Victoria tightens restrictions for New Year's Eve

 
"But it is a decision based on the public health advice, based on the case numbers coming out of New South Wales. [It is] also based on wanting to make sure we lock in the precious gains and sacrifices Victorians have made over 2020," Ms Allan added. 
 
An additional two new cases diagnosed on Thursday morning took the overnight total to five, after three people in the Melbourne suburbs of Mitcham, Hallam and Mentone were on Wednesday evening confirmed to have COVID-19.
 
Authorities imposed tighter restrictions to quell a concerning new outbreak of coronavirus. 

From this evening, the number of people allowed in a home will be reduced from 30 to 15.

Masks will also be mandatory indoors, except for homes. People with medical exemptions are excluded as are those eating or drinking.

"If you are planning to leave your home at the moment, we ask people to carry their masks with them," Ms Allan said.

Victoria re-introduces mandatory mask-wearing

"We are now asking them to wear a mask if they are indoors in any location which is not their private home.

"Unfortunately, we know with this rampant difficult virus, that it does not end at midnight tonight," she added.

Ms Allan apologised for the sudden changes.

Acting Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan addresses the media during a press conference in Melbourne, Thursday, December 31, 2020.
Source: AAP

"We do apologise to people who have put plans in place, who was looking forward to having events in their home, or in other people's homes, but this is a necessary step."

Potential infection sites

Victorian health authorities flagged a series of potential infection sites on Wednesday evening, including the Fountain Gate Shopping Centre and Holy Family Parish Doveton Catholic church.

The cases - believed by Victorian authorities to be connected to COVID-19 cases in NSW - have sent more than 40 people into self-isolation.

They are the first local Victorian virus cases reported since 31 October.

Anyone who visited the Smile Buffalo Thai Restaurant at Black Rock on 21 December have also been told to get tested and isolate.

Victoria’s Commander of COVID-19 response Jeroen Weimar said the active cases were a concern but that everything was being done to ensure all relevant exposure sites and close contacts were identified.

The new cases include two women in their 40s and a woman in her 70s.

Mr Weimar said contract tracing would continue throughout the night in the hope of confirming the source of the infections.

He said more cases were expected to emerge, with a full list of exposure sites to be found here. 

Victoria on Wednesday morning marked 61 days without a local transmission of coronavirus and just one case of a returned traveller in her 20s in hotel quarantine.

There were only eight active cases, all in hotel quarantine or self-isolation, including seven international travellers and a teenager girl at home after contracting the virus in NSW.

Despite Victoria's two-month stretch without local transmission, and an overwhelming desire to see the back of 2020, celebrations for the new year will be muted on Thursday night.

Melbourne fireworks that would draw nearly half a million revellers any other year have been canned in favour of lower-key celebrations than the occasion deserves.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said it was natural people would want to celebrate at the end of a difficult year.

But cancelling the fireworks meant a celebration of the city's hospitality industry, inspired by European piazzas and squares, could go ahead instead.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others.

Please check the relevant guidelines for your state or territory: NSWVictoriaQueenslandWestern AustraliaSouth AustraliaNorthern TerritoryACTTasmania.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.


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Published 30 December 2020 at 7:00pm, updated 31 December 2020 at 5:20pm
Source: AAP - SBS