As the New South Wales coronavirus cluster on Sydney’s Northern Beaches grows, Victoria has effectively shut the border to people from affected areas.
From midnight tonight, a “traffic light” permit system will be in place for anyone entering Victoria from NSW.
The permits will be available through the Services Victoria website, and look set to be in use for at least a fortnight but could stick around for longer.
Here’s what we know so far.
If you’ve been in a red zone, don’t travel to Victoria
Like the similar process introduced for South Australia in mid-November, the permits are allocated on a traffic light system of red zones, orange zones and green zones.
“Anybody who is travelling from the red zones, from the hotspot locations, will not be entitled or allowed to travel into Victoria,” testing chief Jeroen Weimar said.
The red zone is the Northern Beaches local government area in Sydney, which includes suburbs like Manly and Avalon, and other NSW exposure sites.
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The Northern Beaches council has a full list of suburbs in the local government area, and the NSW Health website updates its list of exposure sites daily.
Victorian health authorities say they are working with airlines and New South Wales officials to do the checks before people leave the state.
If those checks and the warnings aren’t enough, anyone found to be from a red zone who is entering the state will be sent straight to mandatory hotel quarantine, at their own cost, for 14 days.
The orange zone is everywhere else in Sydney
People who have been in Greater Sydney but not in those red zones are considered to have been in the orange zone.
They will be asked to be tested on arrival, and self-isolate until they get a negative test result. After that point, they are free to move around Victoria.
Mr Weimar said if you arrive from Greater Sydney and you refuse to get tested “then you go to mandatory hotel quarantine”.
Victoria will use a traffic-light permit system which groups travellers as coming from red, orange or green zones.(ABC News: GFX by Jarrod Fankhauser )
There will be “some enforcement” of the request for people from amber zones to self-isolate, but the first priority is people in the red zones and ensuring they don’t come at all, Mr Weimar said.
Although the rules currently still allow this travel from the orange zone, Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley is asking people to reconsider their visits.
“Don’t come from Sydney if you’re planning to come to Melbourne,” he said.
The rest of NSW is considered a green zone
Everywhere else in NSW is designated a green zone, meaning they can get a permit and come straight into Victoria.
“When it comes to that proportionate response, we think we’ve got it where we need to be on the evidence that’s available to us,” Mr Foley said.
Just like the rest of the country, they are asked to monitor for coronavirus symptoms and get tested at for even the most mild of symptoms.
“Our risk isn’t in those border communities, our risk isn’t in those regional parts of new South Wales. We have a mild risk in Greater Sydney, but we have a defined risk in the hotspots,” Mr Foley said.
The permits will be used for at least a fortnight, and they apply to everyone
Everyone coming into the state from NSW, even if they are just passing through or are from a green zone, needs to apply for a permit.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said given the 14-day incubation period for the virus, the permit system would be in place for a fortnight “at a minimum”.
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“We need to expect that it’s going to be a number of weeks until this outbreak’s under control,” Professor Sutton said.
All travellers will be asked to carry their permit with them when flying, and flights will be met by members of the public health team at Tullamarine Airport and Albury, Mildura, Bendigo and Avalon regional airports.
The rules also apply to people coming into the state by road and rail. Mr Weimar said there would be permit checks on trains and regional buses coming into Victoria.
Victoria Police are expected to start patrols along the land border once it comes into effect.
For Victorians thinking about going to Sydney, there’s a clear message
Although this is the permit system in place at this stage, things can rapidly change as the epidemiology of the day shifts.
Areas that are currently in the “orange zone” could be designated as a “red zone” if coronavirus cases pop up there.
“We are very strongly advising all Victorians not to travel to Sydney,” Mr Foley said.
“As conditions are expected to deteriorate, and you may not be able to re-enter Victoria without undertaking quarantining for 14 days don’t go to Sydney if you’re planning to go to Sydney.
“It won’t be a holiday. It won’t be a Christmas. It won’t be the Christmas or the holiday you were planning.”
The warning was echoed by Mr Weimar: “Our advice, fundamentally, is that we would not want Victorians to put themselves at any risk.”
“Our strong advice is you absolutely should not, under any circumstances, go into the red zone areas. We would advise you not to go to the Greater Sydney area.”
Border residents may not be as affected as last time
Long queues at checkpoints along the NSW-Victoria border became a feature of the Victorian lockdowns earlier in the year.
But authorities are hoping to avoid that this time, with Professor Sutton saying the checkpoints were likely to be further into Victoria than right at the border.
Mr Weimar said authorities were “very aware” of the challenges faced by border communities when lockdowns were imposed.
“This is not intended to inhibit their movements,” he said, adding people should go online and download the permit to allow easy movement.
“Our focus is very much on people coming in from the red zone.”
People on the NSW border communities will still need to have a permit to travel into Victoria.
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