Coronavirus clinics in Sydney’s inner-west have been inundated with people keen to get tested amid fears Victoria’s virus crisis might have spread north.
There were long queues of cars outside clinics in Balmain and Rozelle on Friday, less than 24 hours after it was revealed a staff at a local Woolworths had worked while infected with COVID-19.
It came after Victoria confirmed 66 more COVID cases on Friday – its 17th consecutive day of double-digit infection figures, amid reports up to 10,000 people had refused to be tested.
Since Monday, the state has added 350 active cases in a spike that has brought the return to lock down of 350,000 people and escalating restrictions on interstate travel for all Victorians.
Victoria’s most seriously ill cases also continue to rise – a day after chief health officer Brett Sutton warned more people could die in the state’s outbreak. There are 23 coronavirus patients in Victorian hospitals, including six in intensive care – there were only two at the start of the week.
Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said 95,000 doors had been knocked in a blitz to control the virus’ spread – and described the refusals as “disappointing”.
“That might be for a range of reasons, including that they may have already been tested in a different location – we are analysing that data,” she said..
“It is concerning that the reports that I have received are that some people believe that coronavirus is a conspiracy or that it won’t impact on them.”
In Sydney, the infected Woolworths employee went back to work this week after returning to Sydney from hotel quarantine in Melbourne.
He tested positive in Victoria, but was deemed not to be infectious and released after 14 days.
He was retested after flying to Sydney and going to started work at the store, where a manager noticed his symptoms. That swab was also positive.
On Thursday, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard urged people in the area to be “alert”, while 50 staff from the supermarket went into self-isolation.
Mr Hazzard urged anyone who visited the Balmain Woolworths on either June 27 or 28 and had flu-like symptoms to be tested for coronavirus.
In the 24 hours to 8pm Thursday, there were no new cases of coronavirus found in NSW, despite 17,848 people being tested.
- Possible ‘super spreader’ to blame for Victorian outbreak
- AFL teams relocate, season rejigged amid COVID crisis
Elsewhere, NSW health authorities are screening people at airports and transport hubs to ensure Melbourne residents from COVID-19 hotspots are not entering the state, and cars with Victorian number plates face being stopped.
Any who try to enter NSW could face six months’ imprisonment or a fine of $11,000.
NSW Police have also tightened controls at the Victorian border.
“As a border community, this certainly impacts us,” Murray River Police Superintendent Paul Smith told the ABC.
“A lot of us have family in Melbourne and in some of those suburbs. However, this is obviously for the community safety.
“There is no intent to close those borders. What the intent is, is to stop the spread of the virus.”
Queensland fears ‘smuggled Victorians’
Further north, Queensland police said they would randomly stop freight and heavy vehicles crossing the border to check they aren’t hiding Victorians or anyone travelling from the southern state.
The move comes as Queensland prepares to open its doors to all states and territories – except Victoria – from July 10.
“We’ve already had people try to test the system all the way through, so we’re just going to make it really certain that people aren’t doing that,” State Disaster Coordinator Steve Gollschewski said on Friday.
“The real key to this is the infections are currently in Victoria.
“If we can make sure none of those people that have got that infection get into this state without being detected, we’ll be in a really good space.”
From noon on July 10, anyone entering Queensland must state that they have not travelled to Victoria in the previous 14 days. Those who have can either return or go into quarantine at their own expense.
“Because this is a new system, we expect this to be pretty lumpy and difficult for the first couple of days, if not the first week,” Deputy Police Commissioner Gollschewski said.
South Australia on high alert
Two men have been caught twice trying to travel into South Australia from Victoria, in breach of border restrictions.
The pair, who were travelling in a Volkswagen van, first crossed into SA at 4am on Thursday and were stopped at a checkpoint on the Dukes Highway at Bordertown.
They had not completed an online application to enter the state and were deemed to be non-essential travellers, so were told they would need to self-isolate for 14 days if they stayed.
The men opted to return to Victoria.
But 12 hours later, police found the van and the pair bogged on a dirt road near Pinehill Road at Senior, about 28 kilometres north.
“Police will allege the pair had briefly returned to Victoria before re-entering South Australia, bypassing the border checkpoint and travelling along back roads towards Bordertown,” SA Police said on Friday.
A 23-year-old from Tarneit and an 18-year-old male from Delahey in Victoria – both in suburban Melbourne – were each issued with $1060 on-the-spot fines.
They were again given the option to self-isolate for 14 days or return to Victoria.
They chose to return and were escorted back over the border.
South Australia said on Friday it would maintain border restrictions with NSW, the ACT and Victoria, requiring travellers to complete quarantine on arrival in the state.