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Australia To Close State Border For The First Time In 100+ Years After COVID-19 Spike

The border between New South Wales and Victoria will be closed for the first time since the flu pandemic in 1919.

Police in Australia stop travelers at the NSW-Victoria border ahead of the closure Wednesday night. | Getty Images.
Police in Australia stop travelers at the NSW-Victoria border ahead of the closure Wednesday night. | Getty Images.

The border between Australian states New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria will close Wednesday, following a spike of COVID-19 cases that were reported in Victoria's capital Melbourne. 

The last time the border between the two states closed was more than 100 years ago during the flu pandemic —which killed more than 15,000 Australians, and millions more globally. 

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced Monday that the border would close on Wednesday at midnight, and only people with special permits or exemptions would be allowed to continue traveling between the states. 

“We have done this based on health advice and especially given the fact that when our nation had those higher number of cases back in February and March, the vast majority of those cases were from overseas travellers or their direct contacts,” Berejiklian said. “What is happening in Victoria is very different, which is why we’ve had to take this necessary step.”

According to national data, 199 cases were reported in the last 24 hours, with 191 coming from Victoria—a drastic rise for Australia, which has only reported around 8,700 cases of COVID-19 total since January. A majority of those cases have recovered, while 106 people have died. In comparison, the U.S. is nearing 3 million cases with more than 130,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins. All 50 states eased restrictions, and several have been forced to walk back re-openings and reinstitute lockdowns as cases surge.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews announced Tuesday he would reinstate Stage 3 Stay At Home restrictions across Melbourne and nearby Mitchell Shire starting Wednesday, which will last for six weeks. Under Stage 3, Andrews said residents should only leave their homes for food and essentials like medical supplies, caregiving, exercise, and work or study. Restaurants will return to takeout and delivery, businesses will have restricted operations, and entertainment, personal care, or beauty salons will have to close.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said during a press conference on Monday that 650 police officers were going to the border to “commence the operation” of limiting travel between the two states. 

Berejiklian said that the border closure will allow Victorian health officials and police to focus on containing the virus in their own state. 

“We wouldn’t have taken this step unless we absolutely had to,” Berejiklian continued. “Please know this isn’t a decision we take lightly but during the pandemic I’ve always said that NSW will have a no regrets policy.