Business leaders are urging the Victorian government to make immediate changes to its tough COVID-19 lockdown rules to avoid jeopardising national food supplies amid confusion and fury at conflicting signals about who can keep working.
The strict new quarantine measures for those returning to NSW from Victoria came following advice from NSW Health officials that, although NSW’s cases of coronavirus remained stable, the worsening situation in Victoria put the state at increased risk.
Business groups are furious about the extent of Victoria’s lockdown restrictions.Credit:Wayne Taylor
“The steps that we had in place were based on what we understood was due to be happening in Victoria, that is a reduction in the number of cases. What we are seeing is a very substantial increase again today,” NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.
The Queensland border closure will mean residents returning to Queensland will have to fly in, with a “hard” road border to be put in place. All but a few vehicles, such as freight and those belonging to border residents, would not be allowed to enter.
“We’ve seen that Victoria is not getting better and we are not going to wait for NSW to get worse. We need to act,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
Industry groups were also holding a meeting with the Victorian Treasurer late on Wednesday after the Business Council of Australia expressed major concern about the impact the coronavirus lockdowns in that state could have across the country.
“There are serious problems with current restrictions in Victoria and we stand ready to work with governments to keep Australians safe, save jobs and ensure people can access the products they need,” BCA chief Jennifer Westacott said.
“We have to urgently fix supply chain issues at distribution centres. These restrictions must be lifted today because they do not recognise that supply chains operate nationwide.”
NSW reported 12 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday.
On Wednesday afternoon, St Mary’s Primary in Merrylands in Sydney’s west confirmed it was closed for cleaning and contact tracing after a positive case attended the school. The case took NSW’s daily tally to 13.
A teenage boy in the Hunter region was confirmed to have tested positive for COVID-19, and his school, St Pius X High School in Adamstown, has closed as a result.
Anyone who was on the number 26 school bus from Hamilton to Adamstown at 8.20am on Monday must now self-isolate for a fortnight.
Other members of the boy’s soccer team, the Newcastle Jets under 15s and their opposition from last week, the Stanmore Hawks, are also required to self-isolate for two weeks.
“It is vital people in the community continue to present for testing if experiencing symptoms to limit the spread of the virus,” Public Health Controller for the region’s COVID-19 response team Dr Kat Taylor said.
Residents returning from Victoria will be forced into hotel quarantine from Friday. They must pay for their own accommodation and Sydney Airport will be the only entry point for anyone wanting to come into NSW.
“We are not an island, we are a state within a nation with geographic proximity to, unfortunately, other states,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“We love our Victorian fellow citizens, but their rates of infection are incredibly high at the moment and not going down.”
Mr Hazzard said the Victorian case numbers were “extremely disturbing” but stage-four restrictions in Melbourne should reduce the number of people entering NSW.
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said she was urging “people to really think about their gatherings [and] think about their social life over the next couple of weeks”.
Residents of western and south-western Sydney have been urged to put off gatherings over the next few weeks and consider going out only once a week to stop the virus from spreading.
“We’re pleading with them to basically think about, well, ‘Can I just defer that gathering, or do I need to go to three hotels in one night? Could I limit it to one? Could I perhaps only go out once this week?’ ” Dr Chant said.
Ten of the new cases in NSW are linked to existing clusters: two to the Thai Rock restaurant at Wetherill Park, two to The Apollo restaurant at Potts Point, and six to the Bankstown funerals cluster.
One case is that of a returned traveller in hotel quarantine and one case was locally acquired with no known source.
In NSW, 22,087 tests were carried out over the 24-hour reporting period.
A childcare centre in Sydney’s west was closed for cleaning on Wednesday after a child attended while infectious. The child attended the Kids Early Learning Academy on July 29.
NSW residents will face the same quarantine costs as returning international travellers: $3000 for an adult, $1000 for each additional adult and $500 for each child aged three and over.
Sign up to our Coronavirus Update newsletter
Get our Coronavirus Update newsletter for the day’s crucial developments at a glance, the numbers you need to know and what our readers are saying. Sign up to The Sydney Morning Herald’s newsletter here and The Age’s here.
Alexandra Smith is the State Political Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.
Kate Aubusson is Health Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.
Most Viewed in Politics