Australia to close border between two largest states as coronavirus cases increase
The military has been called in to patrol the 55 border routes – which are used daily by commuters, school children and road freight – as well as several river and wilderness crossings. Anyone caught illegally crossing will face a heavy fine or jail time.
New South Wales officials were rushing to issue daily pass permits to residents on both sides of the border, but delays on the ground were likely.
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“There will be queues, there will be frustration, there will be a lot of questions, but we are doing this to keep everyone safe,” Berejiklian told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday.
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Kevin Mack, the mayor of Albbury, a border town on the New South Wales side, said that with around 50,000 car movements across the border every day “it will be a nightmare for everyone” .
The Defense Ministry said 350-500 soldiers would be dispatched to support local police patrols. Those who cross illegally face a fine of 11,000 Australian dollars ($ 7,700) and six months in prison.
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The border closure was announced on Monday after a recent outbreak of COVID-19 in Melbourne, the Victorian capital, which prompted authorities to reinstate strict social distancing orders in more than 30 suburbs and to completely lock down nine towers social housing.
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The Melbourne epidemic is almost entirely responsible for the increase in the national average number of daily cases to 109 in the past week, from an average of just 9 cases per day in the first week in June. .
Australia has so far reported just under 8,600 cases during the pandemic and 106 deaths, two of which were reported on Monday in Victoria.
Closing the border is a blow to Australia’s hopes to cushion the fall as the country enters its first recession in nearly three decades, thanks to social restrictions that were imposed in March and were largely lifted .
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For border companies, which closed during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1919, this also poses an immediate logistical problem.
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“About a quarter of my staff like me live in New South Wales and cross that border every day to come to work,” said Paul Armstrong, who runs a gas station in Wodonga, a border town on the Victorian side. “I don’t know if they will be able to enter. “
The closure also occurs during school holidays in both states, a peak period for many families.
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Ray Bell, owner of the Twofold Bay Motor Inn in Eden, a coastal town on the NSW side of the border, said he received 37 cancellations overnight, including five guests who were forced to leave early to return home.
Meanwhile, the Australian Football Federation (FFA) will be forced to request waivers to allow the three Melbourne A-League clubs to travel to New South Wales after their plans to leave Victoria by air on Monday evening have been canceled by the fog that closed the airport.
(Report by Renju Jose; edited by Jane Wardell)
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