News Coronavirus Positive cases in border town as NSW-Vic prepare to block interstate travel

Positive cases in border town as NSW-Vic prepare to block interstate travel

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Two suspected coronavirus cases are being investigated in the Albury area as NSW prepares to close its border with Victoria over the COVID-19 outbreak in parts of Melbourne.

The two possible cases returned positive results on preliminary testing in the Murrumbidgee Local Health District, with further testing underway.

One suspected case had recently been to Melbourne but returned before hotspot travel restrictions came into force.

NSW Health is setting up a pop-up clinic in the border city of Albury from Tuesday, and is urging residents in the area with even the mildest symptoms to get tested.

It comes ahead of the Wednesday border closure, which was agreed to by the NSW and Victorian premiers and the prime minister.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian had repeatedly criticised interstate travel restrictions as a handbrake on economic recovery and insisted she wouldn’t agree to border closures with neighbouring states.

She has also declared a shut Victorian border would harm Albury-Wodonga, with some 50,000 car movements between the cities each day. There are 55 NSW-Victoria border crossings.

A testing clinic will be opened in Albury and residents are urged to come forward.

But Ms Berejiklian said the rate of COVID-19 community transmission in parts of Melbourne gave NSW health officials no choice but to close the border.

“To this point, the vast majority of cases around the nation have been from overseas travellers or direct contacts. What is happening in Victoria is a multiplication based on community transmission,” Ms Berejiklian told the Seven Network on Tuesday.

“That is what really concerns us and that is what made us take that difficult decision.”

Ms Berejiklian added that the border would not reopen until community transmission in Melbourne had dropped to a sustainable level.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard also announced that hotspot travel restrictions would be extended to include residents from Greater Melbourne from Tuesday.

It means they will only be able to enter NSW for limited reasons, such as getting medical care, or fulfilling a legal obligation.

Victoria on Monday had recorded an additional 127 new COVID-19 cases and two deaths.

NSW reported 10 cases, all in hotel quarantine, from 11,500 tests.

The Department of Defence will help NSW Police in what Ms Berejiklian has labelled the “mammoth task” of border enforcement, with The Daily Telegraph reporting between 350 and 500 troops will be deployed.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller on Monday said authorities would monitor border crossings across five southern NSW police districts.

NSW residents who return from anywhere in Victoria will from Wednesday be required to self-isolate at home for 14 days.