Victoria will introduce a hard border closure with South Australia starting at 11:59 pm tonight.
Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said the hard border will be in place for 48 hours, before a permit system goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Saturday.
Under the hard border, only freight drivers and those with medical or emergency reasons, urgent animal welfare or authorized by law will be allowed to enter Victoria.
“There is no way we can have people who will not leave their home in South Africa and travel to our state, not right now,” Andrews said.
“These arrangements will not be in effect for a moment longer than necessary.”
Details of the permit scheme have yet to be provided, but reasons for entering Victoria will include:
– If you are an emergency services worker or a worker who provides essential services
– To receive medical care (including search for coronavirus tests), obtain medical supplies or compassionate reasons
– Shop for basic supplies
Victoria Police will establish checkpoints on key roads on the Victoria-South Australia border, and the state government will compare it to the “ring of steel” between Melbourne and the Victoria region.
The prime minister said the latest measures were taken as a “great precaution” due to the recent escalation of coronavirus cases in South Australia.
While cargo will continue through the hard border closure, Andrews said all truck drivers entering Victoria from South Australia will be screened.
“Truck drivers will be tested, all of them from South Australia … we think this is an appropriate response,” he said.
Victoria’s Deputy Health Director, Dr. Allen Cheng, said there were “troubling developments” in South Australia that led the government to close the border.
South Australia reported a case in a medical hotel that resulted from a “very transitory” contact at a pizzeria, Dr. Cheng said.
“The original case had worked there while it was infectious for 10 days, so potentially a lot of contacts,” he said.
He said the strict blockade in South Australia reflected his concern that a hidden transmission could be occurring, necessitating the closure of the border.
“We are closing the border to protect everything we have done in Victoria,” he said.
Andrews said the border restrictions are expected to be lifted at the same time as the South Australia closure.
“Hopefully these low numbers continue to be a feature of their public health response and when they lift their rules, when the restrictions they have put in place change, we can make changes to these border controls,” he said.
The hard border comes after COVID-19 fragments were detected in Benalla in the northeast of the state and Portland in the southwest of the state, about 80 kilometers from the border with South Australia.
Dr. Cheng said that the viral fragments could be from an active case or a recovered case that could be spreading the virus.
“It is always difficult to interpret … a recovered case from Melbourne may have visited these areas,” he said.
Anyone who has visited those areas between November 15 and 17 and shows any symptoms, no matter how minor, should be tested.