Coronavirus NSW: What northern beaches outbreak means for Christmas, borders

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Highlights

Christmas plans have been thrown into chaos after South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia slam borders to NSW shut.

Queensland, Victoria and South Australia have all tightened border restrictions today as the northern beaches cluster in NSW worsens, throwing Christmas travel plans into chaos.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews declared “red zones” in NSW, barring residents from Greater Sydney and the Central Coast from entering the state in a press conference this afternoon.

Shortly after, South Australian Premier Steven Marshall announced a “hard border” between anyone from the northern beaches area.

Now Queensland’s Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has confirmed it will also be closing the border to NSW residents in greater Sydney from 1am tomorrow.

Queenslanders currently in NSW will be given until 1am on Tuesday to get home. Any state residents that return after that date will have to quarantine at home and take a test.

Western Australia also reinstated its hard border with NSW from midnight Saturday.

The Australian Capital Territory says residents who have been to Greater Sydney, Central Coast, Illawarra Shoalhaven and Nepean Blue Mountain areas will have to quarantine for 14 days if they return to the ACT after midnight on Sunday.

The Northern Territory has declared the areas to be a hotspot effective immediately and anyone from the areas will have to undertake 14 days of supervised quarantine at a cost of $2500.

Speaking of Victoria’s decision today, Mr Andrews said: “From midnight tonight all of Greater Sydney and the Central Coast is a red zone — you cannot come to Victoria.”

“If you do then you will have to hotel quarantine for 14 days.

“If you are a returning Victorian, if this is where you live, then you have an extra 24 hours to get home and quarantine in your home. You won’t have to go to a hotel. If, however, as a returning Victorian you arrive after midnight Monday, then you will go into mandatory hotel quarantine,” he explained.

Elsewhere, Mr Marshall told South Australians: “As of midnight tonight anybody who has been in the Greater Sydney area will be required to complete 14 days of suitable quarantine on arrival.

“They will need to have testing on arrival, plus on day five and on day 12.”

He added: “Anybody who has been on the northern beaches will not be able to come in. We have a hard border arrangement now with anybody who has been on the northern beaches. Anybody who has been in regional New South Wales will be required to have that testing, but they will not be required to isolate at this point.”

On Saturday, Premier Mark McGowan similarly said the hard WA border, which means all NSW residents will need to apply for an exemption to access the state, was necessary to keep his state safe.

A rapidly growing virus cluster on Sydney’s northern beaches is shaping to be the outbreak that stole Christmas, with the holiday plans of hundreds of thousands of Aussies now hanging in the balance.

With December 25 just days away, contact tracers are now racing against the clock to get a handle on NSW’s new COVID-19 cluster, with a new lockdown health order for the northern beaches coming into effect at 5pm on Saturday.

The last time the area saw infections run anywhere close to that figure was during March, one government official told The Australian, after the Ruby Princess docked in Circular Quay.

Mr McGowan’s decision was made following an emergency meeting of the nation’s chief health officers.

“This is the reality of living in a world with COVID,” Mr McGowan said.

“Given the size of the Sydney outbreak … NSW will move to be classified as a medium-risk state.”

Mr McGowan said it was a “difficult decision” to make.

NSW reported 30 news cases on Sunday, 28 of which were connected to the Avalon cluster. There are now 68 cases associated with this cluster, the source of which remains under investigation.

From 5pm yesterday until midnight on Wednesday 250,000 people who live north of the Spit Bridge up to Palm Beach can only leave home for four reasons: exercise, essential shopping, work or medical or compassionate grounds.

Northern beaches Mayor Michael Regan said that some residents had already seen their Christmases ruined due to being close contacts.

“That’s a bummer for them and the community will respond how they always respond and do what they can to make their days special and their days better,” he said.

After the state’s northern beaches lockdown was announced, Tasmania imposed quarantine restrictions against Sydneysiders.

Premier Peter Gutwein said he “made no apology” for announcing further restrictions, with greater Sydney upgraded to “medium risk” Saturday night.

“From tomorrow (Sunday), anyone who travels to Tasmania from the remainder of the Greater Sydney area, other than the Northern Beaches area, will have to quarantine for 14 days from arrival in Tasmania,” he said.

Sydneysiders will be allowed to quarantine at home, if they have a suitable residence.

“If not, you‘ll be placed into government facilities at your cost,“ Mr Gutwein said.

“If you’re going to quarantine in a suitable residence, other people in this residence who haven’t travelled with you … will not be required to quarantine at this stage, however, you must ensure that appropriate social distancing occurs.”

Shortly after his announcement, the 2020 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race was officially cancelled.

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What this means for your Christmas Plans

As for other Sydney residents, there were chaotic scenes at Sydney Airport on Friday as hundreds made the decision to move their trips forward — with all of Australia’s other states and territories moving swiftly to reimpose border restrictions for the northern beaches.

These are the current rules. As it’s an unfolding situation, it’s not known how long these restrictions will last.

TASMANIA: Tasmania has imposed quarantine for Sydneysiders. People heading to the Apple Isle must quarantine for 14 days in their home, or if they are unable to, quarantine in a hotel at their own cost. If you completed a Tas e-Travel registration and indicated you had been in NSW since December 11, your pass will be cancelled and you need to reapply.

QUEENSLAND: Queensland will be closing the border to NSW residents in greater Sydney from 1am tomorrow.

Queenslanders currently in NSW will be given until 1am on Tuesday to get home. Any state residents that return after that date will have to quarantine at home and take a test.

Anyone who has been in the northern beaches region on or since December 11 and are already in Queensland are required to get tested and quarantine at home or in accommodation until 14 days after the date they left.

If you arrived in Queensland on a flight from Sydney after midnight on December 18, the same rule applies. Anyone arriving in Queensland from the northern beaches after 1am on December 19 will be required to go into hotel quarantine at their own expense, and get tested.

Until the border closure comes into effect anyone from the NSW Central Coast or Greater Sydney area will be asked to get tested upon arrival in Queensland and isolate until they receive a negative result.

NORTHERN TERRITORY: The northern beaches is considered a virus hot spot and Territorians planning to visit the region should rethink their plans.

People entering the NT after visiting the northern beaches will have to undergo 14 days of mandatory quarantine on return to the NT, in Darwin or Alice Springs, at a cost of $2500 per person. Anyone in the NT who was in the northern beaches after December 11 needs to be tested and isolate while waiting for results.

ACT: People in Canberra are advised not to travel to the northern beaches region. People in the ACT who have been there since December 11 must self-isolate and get tested.

VICTORIA: From midnight, residents from Greater Sydney and the Central Coast are barred from entering the state. Those who do arrive in the state from those areas will need to spend 14 days in hotel quarantine.

Returning Victorians will have an extra 24 hours to get home where they will be able to quarantine instead of a hotel.

If, however, you arrive after midnight Monday, then you will go into mandatory hotel quarantine.

Health Minister Martin Foley has warned the state’s residents to avoid Sydney or risk being stranded there as the northern beaches outbreak continues to explode.

Mr Foley said that as NSW’s coronavirus numbers continued to increase there was every chance the whole of Sydney could soon be declared a “red zone”, meaning that people could not enter the state unless they completed two weeks in quarantine.

“There is significant risk that COVID-19 has seeded across the greater Sydney area,” Mr Foley told reporters Saturday.

“If that is the case, and I stress that is an if, then we will have no choice but to declare all of Sydney a red zone.

“That will mean anyone who has been in Sydney will not be allowed into Victoria.

“My message to everyone in Victoria is don’t go to Sydney. If you are prepared to do so, then be prepared to be stuck there for at least a period of time, if the red zone designation expands to greater Sydney.”

WESTERN AUSTRALIA: All NSW residents will need to apply for an exemption to access the state.

If you travelled to WA from NSW since December 11, you must get tested and then self-isolate until you get a negative result.

West Australians are advised not to go into NSW if they don’t need to, and other travellers should avoid travelling from WA via NSW.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Anybody who has been in the Greater Sydney area will be required to complete 14 days of quarantine on arrival, at home or in a hotel at their own cost. There is a “hard border” against anyone from the northern beaches.

Health officials are contacting anyone who has arrived in the state from the northern beaches area in recent days, who they will direct into quarantine. Anyone who has come in from other parts of New South Wales will require testing.

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Could Sydney be headed for another lockdown

Gladys Berejiklian has announced new lockdown restrictions for Greater Sydney as the northern beaches COVID cluster continues to spread, with 30 new cases recorded overnight.

As of today, everybody in the greater Sydney area including the Blue Mountains and Central Coast is limited to 10 guests in their homes at any one time.

All indoor public settings have also reverted back to the 4sq m rule, and dancing in settings other than weddings has been banned, as well as all “singing and chanting”.

Ms Berejiklian also urged all northern beaches residents who may now be in regional areas of NSW to stay home to avoid seeding of the virus in the wider community.

On Saturday, Ms Berejiklian warned more cases could lead to tough new measures for the rest of the NSW capital.

“We don’t want to go down the mandatory path but we will if we have to. But at this stage, let’s see how the next 24-48 hours go,” she said.

“I will not hesitate to take on health advice if (NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant) and her team give us advice to the alternative. At this stage we believe what we have in place is commensurate or matches what the risk is.”

Epidemiologist Adrian Esterman told news.com.au that while NSW authorities seem to be backing their contract tracers to get on top of the outbreak without having to resort to stricter measures, once daily cases exceed 50, it could become difficult to keep up.

Professor Esterman said Sydney could kill off the virus with a tough three to four day lockdown, adding the measure “might work” if the cluster stayed localised in the northern beaches.

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