The border between Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) — Australia’s two most-populous states — will be closed for the first time since the pandemic began, Victorian State Premier Daniel Andrews announced Monday.
Military personnel and police will line the border, allowing very few people to cross, according to CNN affiliate 7NEWS
Victoria has struggled to contain a second wave of coronavirus cases, leading to fears that the infection rate could soon rise across the country. Last week it emerged that some contracted workers in Melbourne were not following protocols at a hotel used to quarantine international arrivals to the state — including reportedly having sex with people under lockdown
The surge in cases has forced authorities to reimpose stay-at-home orders on dozens of suburbs and, on Saturday, 3,000 residents of nine densely populated public housing estates were suddenly put under a total lockdown.
On Sunday, Victoria recorded its highest daily spike of 127 new cases, including 16 in the nine public housing towers.
“It is the smart call, the right call at this time, given the significant challenges we face in containing this virus,” Andrews said of the decision to seal off Victoria.
There are 55 ground crossings between Victoria and New South Wales, including four major highways, 33 bridges and two waterways. People who need to cross them, such as those who work in a different state, will be able to apply for permits to do so, Andrews added.
According to a statement released by the NSW government, all travelers returning from Melbourne and the state of Victoria will be required to go into 14 days of self-isolation, or face heavy penalties and fines.
It is unclear how this will impact the numerous border communities between the two states, or the constitutionality of the border closure. Section 92 of Australia’s constitution
says that “trade, commerce, and intercourse among the states, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free.”