Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley has urged residents of his state not to travel to NSW, warning more border restrictions could be imposed to keep coronavirus north of the Murray.
Victoria had its eighth consecutive day with no community transmission of COVID-19 on Thursday, with the total number of active infections dropping from 25 to 21 overnight.
There are just three locally acquired active cases, while the remainder are returned travellers in hotel quarantine.
It comes as locked-down NSW posted 38 more local cases, its highest number this year. It has had 395 community infections since the state’s outbreak began in mid-June.
The situation in NSW, as well as an outbreak in Queensland, meant plans for Victoria to return to COVID-normal restrictions were put on hold.
Instead, on Friday Melbourne will move to the same restrictions in place in regional Victoria.
Masks will no longer be required at schools and in workplaces where staff are not interacting with the public. Retail, hospitality and other venues will be able to increase their capacity, and dance floors can reopen.
“Clearly, things north of us continue to be quite problematic … and we don’t apologise for that careful cautious approach to allow us the safe steps we need to stay open,” Mr Foley said on Thursday.
He said red zone classifications in place for greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Central Coast will not change any time soon.
“If anything, we might well see some circumstances of tougher arrangements applying across NSW as that position becomes more precarious,” Mr Foley said.
He urged Victorians not to travel to NSW and would not rule out a ‘hard border’ with the state.
“The risk grows and the threat grows, and having worked so hard to get to this level that we have in Victoria, we do not need Victorians entering and coming back from NSW,” he said.
Some 27,420 tests were processed in the 24 hours to Thursday morning, while 15,875 Victorians received a vaccine dose at one of the state-run hubs.