The Northern Beaches coronavirus outbreak has had nationwide repercussions on the movement of Australians just a week out from the busy Christmas tourist season, with fears the virus could further spread in the community.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke on Friday about the outbreak, urging Australians to remain calm and follow local advice, while state and territory leaders have introduced new levels of restrictions for people who have recently been to the area.
Here is how Australia’s states, territories and Federal Government have reacted to the outbreak.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Mr Morrison said there would be constraints on movement as a result of “the events in the last 24 hours”, but he said past outbreaks have shown limitations can be eased once further information is known.
“My message to the public more broadly is to remain calm and follow that advice,” he said.
“That’s what Australians have done, by and large, throughout the course of the year.”
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The possibility of bringing forward the approval and distribution of vaccines to Australians in light of the outbreak was put to the Prime Minister.
Mr Morrison said he wouldn’t be making “hasty decisions on people’s health” by becoming “distracted by the events of the day”.
“The vaccine is critically important to the country, and we will be making sure that, when it finally receives approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration by Professor Skerritt, it’ll be done in accordance with all the requirements that he and his group require,” Mr Morrison said.
“That way, I can say to Australians that, if he gives it the tick, you can get the jab.”
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In light of panicked travellers at Sydney Airport attempting to cross borders before they are blocked from entering other states, Mr Morrison was asked about imposing a national standard on hotspots to prevent panicking residents
Mr Morrison said states and territories had not agreed to a national standard and the Federal Government had no authority to impose such a measure.
He said decisions on lockdowns were also up to the state and territory leaders, as they were responsible for public health within their jurisdictions.
“So they’re going to do their job, I’m going to do my job and, 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,” he said.
New South Wales
If the Northern Beaches outbreak is not brought under control, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says further restrictions could come into effect in the state.
“I stress to everybody in and around Avalon and the Northern Beaches that for the next three days you shouldn’t leave your home unless absolutely necessary,” she said.
“If we get on top of this in the next two or three days, all of us will be able to have a better Christmas.
“If we don’t get on top of it, it could mean further restrictions down the track.”
Gladys Berejiklian strongly urges residents to wear a mask as Sydney goes on high alert.
The Premier urged the residents of Greater Sydney to wear masks in places where there was high foot traffic.
“Nobody should be getting on public transport without wearing a mask, nobody in Greater Sydney should be going to a supermarket or a place of worship without wearing a mask,” she said.
“It would just be crazy.”
Ms Berejiklian confirmed new rules would be in place from Tuesday for inbound international airline crew due to a “lack of compliance”.
Airline crew will stay in two police-operated hotels in Sydney “as opposed to 25 or 26 [hotels]”.
Victoria responded to the outbreak by effectively closing its border to residents of the Northern Beaches or people who have been exposed to high-risk sites in NSW from midnight Friday.
Health Minister Martin Foley says Victorians are strongly advised against travelling to Sydney.
Introducing a traffic-light permit system for people entering the state from NSW, Health Minister Martin Foley advised Victorians not to travel to Sydney or they may not be able to re-enter the state without quarantining upon return.
“Victorians have worked really hard to get to 49 days ‘community transmission free’ of this virus,” Mr Foley said.
“We are not going to put that at risk, we will take all the steps the evidence tells us to, to protect that.”
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk responded to the outbreak by declaring the Northern Beaches a coronavirus hotspot.
Queensland declares Northern Beaches a COVID-19 hotspot.
From 1:00am on Saturday December 19, anyone who arrives in Queensland from Sydney’s Northern Beaches will be required to undertake two weeks of mandatory hotel quarantine at their own expense.
Flights arriving from Sydney into Queensland will be met by officers and partner agencies, Queensland Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said.
The state’s Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young urged people to reconsider travelling to Sydney, warning that if other areas of NSW were declared hotspots people “might end up being caught in that process.”
Western Australia
WA implemented mandatory 14-day isolation for anyone entering NSW from today. But the state has flagged it could implement even tougher measures.
Premier Mark McGowan warned that Sydney was “on the verge of a very serious outbreak”, suggesting that the state may put up a hard border with NSW in the near future.
“I will not hesitate to do that, if that is what the health advice recommends,” Mr McGowan said of introducing a hard border with NSW.
Mr McGowan also urged West Australians to avoid travelling to New South Wales, if possible.
Mark McGowan says WA is watching the testing results out of NSW very carefully.
He sympathised with people whose Christmas travel plans had been thrown into chaos by the situation.
“I understand this is a difficult period for many and I understand this must be very upsetting for families looking to reunite and spend Christmas together,” Mr McGowan said.
“But our best defence to keep COVID-19 out of our community is border controls.
“We didn’t create this situation, but I think we are well prepared for it.”
South Australia
South Australia has kept its border open with NSW, but has reintroduced an application process for travellers from all states hoping to enter its borders.
The application process will include a question on whether anyone has been in Sydney’s Northern Beaches since December 11.
SA Premier Steven Marshall explains the state’s response to the NSW cluster.
The Northern Beaches are now considered “high community transmission zones” by the SA Government, with anyone who has been to the area since December 11 required to quarantine in SA for two weeks.
“It has been picked up very early and it’s very localised at this point,” Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said of the Northern Beaches outbreak.
“For both of those reasons, we have made a decision at this point not to close our state borders.”
Australian Capital Territory
Canberra residents have also been told to reconsider travel to Sydney as the Northern Beaches outbreak grows.
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith says it would be a “terrible” idea to travel to the Northern Beaches.
ACT’s Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said that for this weekend, people should avoid going to Sydney, as not all people in the cluster were located in the Northern Beaches.
“I know it’s a difficult time of year, it’s the lead-in to Christmas and everyone was breathing a sigh of relief but unfortunately that is not the situation we find ourselves in. So please, please be vigilant,” ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said.
“It is absolutely a terrible idea at this point to travel to the Northern Beaches local government area.
“It’s probably not a great idea, frankly, to be travelling to Sydney at this point in time I know that is going to be difficult for a lot of people.”
Northern Territory
Health authorities in the NT have also declared Sydney’s Northern Beaches a coronavirus hotspot.
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Anyone arriving from the area into the NT from 12:01am Friday are required to go into supervised quarantine for 14 days at a cost of $2,500.
Acting NT Chief Minister Nicole Manison said the Government would not hesitate to expand the hotspot should the situation in NSW worsen.
“Territorians do need to be prepared that at any point this hotspot area could be widened, and we will be watching very carefully what happens in NSW today and what information comes out of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee throughout the day,” she said.
“We have to make the tough decisions. It’s complacency that is our biggest danger right now and we just cannot risk the incredible job our frontline workers have done to date to keep us safe.”
Tasmania Premier Peter Gutwein says the outbreak in NSW was “causing some concern” even though Tasmania would be keeping its borders open to the state for the time being.
However, Tasmanians returning home will be required to quarantine if they have visited the Sydney Northern Beaches council area and several other high-risk hotspots in Kirribilli, Peakhurst and Penrith.
Peter Gutwein says the best defence is to “go hard and go early”.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)
These people will be required to be tested within 48 hours, but can quarantine at home or at a State Government hotel.
Mr Gutwein said: “Going hard and going early is the best defence.”
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