Victoria Can Handle New Clusters: Premier

Australian Associated Press is an Australian news agency.
December 31, 2020Updated: December 31, 2020

Victoria’s hard border with New South Wales (NSW) will start from 11.59 p.m. on Friday after eight locally acquired cases were recorded in less than 24 hours.

Premier Daniel Andrews said Victoria is equipped to handle new coronavirus clusters.

These cases, which first emerged on Wednesday night, ended a 60-day streak without infections for Victoria.

All are directly or indirectly linked to the Smile Buffalo Thai restaurant in Black Rock on Dec. 21, which was attended by a NSW returned traveller.

That traveller returned before border permits were in place and was tested on Thursday.

It was also revealed on Friday that wastewater samples taken from Lakes Entrance on Dec. 29 recorded traces of the virus, prompting calls or anyone in that area with symptoms to get tested.

The unexpected result means there will be an increase in samples taken from the Lakes Entrance area.

“We always knew there would be cases and clusters,” Andrews, who is currently on leave, posted on Facebook on Thursday. “We have plans and systems in place to deal with precisely this scenario–and those are already well underway.

“I know this will be tough to take. Victorians have been through a lot this year and sacrificed so much.

“But we will get through it–together,” he said.

Victoria’s testing chief Jeroen Weimar said early information indicated a potential exposure window between Dec. 17 and 19.

The state’s hard border with NSW will start from 11.59 p.m. on Friday.

Anyone who arrives back in Victoria from anywhere in NSW on Friday has to be tested and go into isolation for 14 days.

After that, returning Victorians will go into hotel quarantine.

Acting premier Jacinta Allan apologised for the border closure but said Victorians who are in NSW should not be surprised.

“We have been sending a very strong message for the better part of a week-and-a-half … advising people to think very carefully about their travel to NSW,” Allan said on Thursday. “These difficult decisions are about protecting the community, protecting and keeping case numbers low and doing everything we can to lock in the gains we have made over the course of 2020.”

Masks are also mandatory indoors and the number of visitors allowed in Victorian homes is down to 15 from 30, she said.

Health Minister Martin Foley on Thursday urged Victorians not to travel to NSW and for any Victorians in the previous NSW green zone to return immediately.

“You do not want to be caught on the wrong side of a rapidly evolving situation,” he said.

Victorians can continue to return from Canberra with a green zone permit, while more details will be announced for border communities and people who are travelling through NSW to return to Victoria.

By Gus McCubbing