Aussie PM Urges Calm as State's Virus Cluster Grows

Aussie PM Urges Calm as State's Virus Cluster Grows
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison arrives at Haneda airport in Tokyo, Japan, on Nov. 17, 2020. (Reuters/Issei Kato)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged Australians to remain calm as a New South Wales (NSW) virus cluster prompts some domestic borders to shutter.

The outbreak on Sydney's northern beaches grew to 28 cases on Friday, with residents in the area urged to get tested and avoid complacency.

Residents on the peninsula have been told to stay home and face mandatory quarantine if they travel anywhere in the country.

Western Australia has taken the step of ordering all NSW visitors to self-isolate for 14 days, while people travelling from NSW now need a permit to enter Victoria.

Morrison wants Australians to remain calm and follow health advice.

He acknowledged public anxiety had risen in response to the NSW cluster but assured it would be handled.

"There is no magic formula that just makes the pandemic go away, so the states will continue to manage it," he told reporters in Canberra. "They're going to do their job and I'm going to do my job.

"Together we will continue to ensure that Australia has one of the best records in the world of both managing the impact of COVID-19 during this pandemic globally, as well as ensuring that the economic comeback that has begun in Australia continues to move at pace."

The federal government's latest economic update is partly based on the expectation all state borders remain open next year.

Morrison insists he's not concerned about the impact Sydney's cluster would have on the budget.

The government hopes a coronavirus vaccine can be distributed by March, depending on approval from the boss of the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

"If he gives it the tick, you can get the jab," the prime minister said.

Sydney's northern beaches has been declared a commonwealth hotspot due to the rate of new cases.

The declaration ensures the region has more support for residential aged care facilities, access to more personal protective equipment and contact tracing.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the outbreak served as a reminder of the virus's potency amid an "avalanche" of complacency.

The cluster has been linked to a strain of the virus from the United States but authorities are still figuring out how it jumped into the community.

Health Minister Greg Hunt says the next few days will be critical.

"We've prepared for this moment," he told reporters on the outskirts of Melbourne. "We've always said that while we're doing extraordinarily well there would be outbreaks, there will be circumstances where local clusters emerge, and we thank the northern beaches population for their action.

"The next few days will be critical and the behaviour of individuals will be fundamental."

Rebecca Gredley
Australian Associated Press is an Australian news agency.