Prime Minister Scott Morrison says people from virus hotspots in Melbourne could be quarantined for two weeks if they leave the state.
Speaking after a national cabinet meeting today, Mr Morrison said it was still reasonable for states to reopen borders next month despite a spike in cases in Victoria.
The Northern Territory has become the first jurisdiction to announce it’ll close its borders to anyone who lives in a coronavirus hotspot in response to Melbourne’s escalating coronavirus outbreaks.
All eyes have been on Victoria over the past 10 days as it reported double-digit rises in new COVID-19 infections, with other state governments watching to determine what the situation could mean for their own jurisdictions – particularly the long-awaited reopening of state borders.
Mr Morrison applauded that move from the NT.
“The Northern Territory Government is opening up and I commend the Chief Minister, Michael Gunner, for that approach,” he said.
“If you’ve come from a hotspot, well, you’ll have to go into quarantine and that’s entirely reasonable.
“What that does is reinforces that this is about where the hotspot is and these are localised outbreaks. If you live in Wangaratta as I said yesterday, or Wagga, you’re just as affected by what’s happening in the hotspots of Melbourne.
“And so, to have those sort of broadbrush-type restrictions really, I don’t think, makes an enormous amount of sense.”
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has maintained she won’t be making a decision over the reopening of her state’s border – set for July 10 – until the start of next month, but the NT has announced it’ll adjust its plans based on what’s happening down south.
The Territory’s border will open to the rest of Australia on July 17, as planned, but entry will now be denied to anyone who lives in a coronavirus hotspot.
“If your suburb or local government area has been declared a hotspot by your state or territory government, or by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, then you will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days in a regional centre and at your own cost, before you can enjoy the NT,” Chief Minister Michael Gunner said.
The NT has no active cases of coronavirus and no community transmission, the first Australian jurisdiction to clinically eliminate the virus last week.
“The Territory has stayed safe by closing our borders to all states,” Mr Gunner said.
“In our next step, we will stay safe by keeping our borders closed to suburbs that are not safe.”
The suburbs and local government areas deemed hot spots by the NT Government will be listed on their coronavirus website here.
Chief health officer Hugh Heggie earlier this week said the initial call to close the Territory’s border was about “buying time” for all arms of the health sector to prepare for more cases, rather than to eliminate the virus.
“We have always been going for virus suppression, not elimination,” Dr Heggie said.
“The main thing that we did in terms of Territory borders being closed was to give us time to prepare for what we needed. Have we got enough tests, have we got enough PPE, are our staff prepared. And they are now.”
Dr Heggie’s announcement that the NT would progress with its initial date for reopening the border copped criticism from Australian Medical Association NT branch president Dr Robert Parker.
“I’m very concerned. I think it’s sheer idiocy to consider opening the borders without quarantine given the current surge in Victoria,” he told ABC yesterday.
“If we relax that now, without really understanding what’s happening in Victoria, that could have a massive impact on Territorians in terms of death and ongoing disease.”
Victoria reported 30 new cases of coronavirus today, with 10 Melbourne suburbs considered hot spots and being targeted in a 10-day State Government testing blitz.
Testing in Broadmeadows and Keilor Downs has already commenced – to mixed reactions – with “hundreds and hundreds” of healthcare workers inviting residents in Maidstone, Albanvale, Sunshine West, Hallam, Brunswick West, Fawkner, Reservoir and Pakenham to get tested in the coming week.