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Danger on our doorstep: Aussies told to avoid Victoria as NSW considers border ban

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Australia’s chief medical officer has warned Australians against travelling to and from Victorian coronavirus hotspots as the state grapples with an outbreak – and NSW may implement a border ban on visitors entering the state.

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Professor Brendan Murphy says some Victorians have been complacent but experts are confident the spike will be brought under control.

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro says the State Government will discuss “managing” the number of people coming in from Victoria, after the surge in coronavirus cases south of the border.

While community transmission of the virus has flatlined in NSW, with just one case over the past week, Victoria is enduring a second wave of infections. More than 83 per cent of new cases in Australia over the past week were recorded in Victoria.

“We’re trying to get out of the COVID crisis, we’re lifting restrictions and now there’s a real threat from Victoria,” Barilaro told Channel 7.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian will today receive an urgent briefing from the state’s Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant about Victoria’s outbreak.

“NSW will continue to monitor the health situation in Victoria and nationally,” a NSW Government spokesperson said.

“The NSW Government, in consultation with the Chief Health Officer, will continue to take the steps required to protect the health of our citizens.”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk applauded NSW for getting its infection rate under control but said she was concerned by the level of ongoing community transmission in Victoria. Palaszczuk would not be drawn on whether the state was less likely to reopen its borders on July 10 in accordance with the government roadmap.

“It says review at the end of the month we’re going to review at the end of the month,” Palaszczuk told reporters on Monday.

Palaszczuk emphasised that National Cabinet would discuss the Victorian situation on Friday. She played down the prospect of Queensland only opening up to selected states, as South Australia has done, saying Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not want that to happen.

But with Queensland again recording no new cases of COVID-19 overnight, Palaszczuk reiterated the need for ongoing caution and decisions to be based on health advice.

“We don’t want to see a second wave,” Palaszczuk said, adding that Queenslanders were stopping her in the streets to voice similar concerns.

Murphy said it was unlikely the new cases were related to recent protests, telling the ABC it was mainly families who weren’t taking social distancing seriously.

“We’re asking people to respect the public health situation and change their behaviour accordingly,” Prof Murphy told the ABC on Monday.

Victoria confirmed another 19 cases on Sunday, taking to 160 the number of new cases in the state over the past week.

The only other cases reported on Sunday were five in NSW and one in Western Australia.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee says outbreaks have been identified in the local government areas of Hume, Casey, Brimbank, Moreland, Cardinia and Darebin.

“The AHPPC strongly discourages travel to and from those areas until control of community transmission has been confirmed,” the committee said in a statement on Sunday.

Prof Murphy also urged Victorians from the coronavirus hotspots to avoid travel to regional areas where there are no cases.

Queensland has formally declared the Victorian hotspots, requiring any travellers who visited those areas to self-quarantine for two weeks upon their arrival in Queensland.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth said the Victorian situation was discussed at Sunday’s meeting of the AHPPC.

He said that after the update from Victoria’s chief health officer, Professor Brett Sutton, the panel had “every confidence” the outbreak would be brought under control.

“This is a good example of how things are going to work into the future,” Dr Coatsworth said.

“(It is ) an important example because it will show how a state can get on top of outbreaks of this nature in Victoria and then move forward.”

Dr Coatsworth said each state needed to manage such spikes according to their own circumstances, and while Victoria had decided to suspend some other easing of restrictions, other jurisdictions didn’t need to change their plans.

He said the protocols on hygiene, social distancing, and staying away from others if showing symptoms should stay in place.

“Importantly as well, for those states where restrictions are lifting, that doesn’t imply a lifting of our personal behaviour standards that we have become so used to.”

Most of the new cases in Victoria came from large family gatherings.

“We don’t want people to stop living their lives. We want people to interact but we want them to do so in a way that is safe and stops the virus from spreading,” Dr Coatsworth told reporters on Sunday.

He said he understood it could be difficult to resist hugging or kissing someone you hadn’t seen for a long time but it was important to refrain.

People with symptoms should not go to work or socialise and should get tested.

The Victorian spike has spooked some of the other states, including Queensland, which had been under political and business pressure to ease its border restrictions.

“The last thing we want to do is lift the borders, have lots of people come here for school holidays, spread coronavirus in our state, and then force us to go backwards on restrictions,” Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles told reporters on Sunday.

“Clearly what’s happening in Victoria will be a matter we will need to take into account in those considerations.”

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan was also cautious despite federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann calling for states to end border closures.

“Clearly what has happened in Victoria means that we will take that into account in any decisions we’ll make, but like everyone I’m very worried about it when you see these outbreaks,” Mr McGowan said.

“Once they get out of control people can die and I don’t want to see that come here.”

There are now 7461 virus cases confirmed across Australia since the initial outbreak. The death toll remains at 102, relatively low by international standards.

-AAP

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