A public health warning message is posted in Sydney, Australia. Loren Elliott/Reuters
Gulf Today Report
Australia will ring in the New Year with harsher restrictions on movement as New South Wales recorded 10 new COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday night.
The country’s two largest states battle to quash fresh COVID-19 cases in their capital cities.
A woman pushes a pram past a giant mask and eye display stuck to a tree in Melbourne. File/AFP
South Australia Premier Steven Marshall confirmed the latest numbers as SA will enforce a hard border with NSW from 12.01am tonight.
Australia’s second-most-populous state, Victoria, government wants to reserve as many hotel quarantine spots as possible for returning international travellers, who are at highest risk of carrying the virus. The hard border is taking effect from 11.59pm Friday to give as many Victorians still in NSW time to get back, to avoid a hotel quarantine influx.
It will limit indoor gatherings to 15 people and reintroduce mandatory masks indoors starting Thursday, a day after it reported three new cases that ended its COVID-free streak of more than two months.
Though cases slightly eased in the most populous state of New South Wales (NSW), authorities described the situation as “very volatile.”
“Pleasingly, we have seen the numbers go down today... but they are going to bounce around and what is really important is for all of us to do everything we can to reduce our mobility,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.
Authorities have tightened rules ahead of New Year’s Eve, hoping to avert community transmission, as cases are expected to rise in the coming days because of family gatherings and travelling during the holidays.
Sydney’s virus clusters continued to grow, with the latest one in an inner-west suburb rising by three cases in the last 24 hours. The cluster detected in the northern seaside areas in mid-December now includes nearly 150 cases.
NSW reported 10 new local cases compared with 18 a day earlier, while Victoria added three to its tally.
Meanwhile, South Australia state on Thursday said rising infections in Sydney have led it to put up a hard border with NSW starting Friday, with only returning residents, essential workers and people relocating to the state allowed entry.
Australia has reported just over 28,400 COVID-19 cases and 909 deaths since the pandemic began.
As greater Melbourne passed the halfway point of a lockdown initially intended to last six weeks, Premier Daniel Andrews said the state would be stuck in "limbo" unless it could cut the infection rate.
The rate of new coronavirus cases has abated significantly in both countries without straining the capacity of their health systems. New Zealand has enforced a wide-ranging lockdown and Australia is also tightly restricting many activities.
The person who contracted the virus has been infectious for a week but stayed mostly isolated at home since Monday after developing symptoms, Queensland state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
More than 22,500 test results were conducted in the past 24 hours in Australia’s second most populous city Melbourne and authorities urged residents to get tested amid fears of community transmission from a worker at the Holiday Inn in the city.
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