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Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia have each warned Christmas travellers they may reinstate coronavirus border restrictions in the coming days if a growing cluster of cases in Sydney’s northern beaches is not quickly traced and contained.
Leaders in those states have said health authorities are closely monitoring the new outbreak in Sydney. Queensland and WA said they were likely to make an initial decision on how to respond within 24 hours.
Speaking to reporters in northern New South Wales on Thursday, the prime minister, Scott Morrison, urged state premiers not to rush to close state borders as NSW authorities attempted to trace and contain six detected coronavirus cases.
“I think Australians are going to work hard to keep it that way, and I think premiers and chief ministers are very keen to [keep the country open] as well,” Morrison said.
The prospect of renewed border restrictions could throw Christmas plans into chaos for thousands of travellers, many of whom have been cut off from family and friends due to extended pandemic restrictions this year.
Chief health officers from various states held a conference call on Thursday afternoon to discuss the NSW situation. The timing and scale of any new restrictions would ultimately depend on the ability of NSW authorities to quickly demonstrate the new outbreak was contained.
The next day will be critical as several states have indicated they will not hesitate to restrict travellers at the border.
The acting Queensland premier, Steven Miles, said his state would consider whether to declare affected parts of Sydney a “hotspot” and bar entry to people who had travelled to those areas.
“Obviously there’s a lot of concern about this emerging outbreak in Sydney and they are monitoring it very closely,” Miles said.
“We would urge anyone in Queensland who has been in that northern beaches region [in the past week] … to go to NSW Health alerts to see if they have been in any of those locations.
“Over that 24-hour period the chief health officer will need to work out whether other measures need to be put in place.
“That may involve naming geographic hotspots but it is too early to say whether that will be the case.
“We hope they will get on top of this very quickly, but this is early days, this is new information and over the next 24 hours we will be monitoring it very, very closely.”
The Western Australia premier, Mark McGowan, said the reintroduction of a hard border with NSW was “a prospect”.
“We won’t hesitate to do that if the medical advice says that is what is required,” McGowan said.
“I can’t give firm advice on at this point in time, but there is a prospect. You just need to be aware if you’re travelling, that kind of arrangement might come into being.”
In South Australia, police commissioner Grant Stevens said he anticipated NSW authorities would be able to quickly identify the source of the coronavirus outbreak.
“If that’s not the case and we see a continuing spread of Covid-19 in the NSW community then we will reassess our border arrangements,” he said.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Queensland, WA and SA consider border restrictions over NSW Covid outbreak | Health