MELBOURNE • New South Wales, Australia's most-populous state, said residents of 10 virus hot spots in neighbouring Victoria would face six months in jail or a fine of A$11,000 (S$10,586) if they attempt to cross the border.
The 10 areas of Melbourne went into lockdown shortly before midnight yesterday as the authorities attempt to crush a spike in coronavirus infections.
Victoria state has experienced two weeks of double-digit increases in new Covid-19 cases after social distancing restrictions were eased, jeopardising its economic recovery and prompting other states to delay plans to open their borders.
New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard yesterday ordered residents from his state to avoid travelling to the affected areas, saying they would have to be quarantined for 14 days if they did so, or face similar penalties.
New South Wales has not seen a flare-up in community transmissions and is further easing restrictions, allowing more people into venues and resuming community sport.
Australia has fared better than many countries in the pandemic, with around 7,920 cases, 104 deaths and fewer than 400 active cases, but the recent jump has stoked fears of a second wave of Covid-19, echoing concerns expressed in other countries.
Globally, coronavirus cases exceeded 10 million on Sunday, a major milestone in the spread of a disease that has killed more than half a million people in half a year.
From midnight, more than 30 suburbs in Melbourne, Australia's second-biggest city, returned to stage three restrictions, the third-strictest level in curbs to control the pandemic. That means residents will be confined to their homes except for grocery shopping, health appointments, work or care-giving, and exercise.
The restrictions will be accompanied by a testing blitz that the authorities hope will extend to half the population of the area affected, and for which borders will be patrolled, they said. The measures come as curbs ease across the rest of the state of Victoria, with restaurants, gyms and cinemas reopening in recent weeks.
Victoria recorded 73 fresh cases on Tuesday from 20,682 tests, following an increase of 75 cases on Monday. State Premier Daniel Andrews warned yesterday that the return of broader restrictions across the city remained a possibility.
"If we all stick together these next four weeks, we can regain control of that community transmission... across metropolitan Melbourne," Mr Andrews said at a briefing. "Ultimately if I didn't shut down those postcodes, I'd be shutting down all postcodes. We want to avoid that."
If we all stick together these next four weeks, we can regain control of that community transmission... across metropolitan Melbourne.
VICTORIA PREMIER DANIEL ANDREWS
Some other Australian states and territories are preparing to open borders, but applying limits and quarantine measures to residents of Victoria.