Two people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Albury on the edge of New South Wales and Victoria – just one day before the border is closed between the two states.
One of those infected had recently returned from Melbourne, NSW Health officials said.
‘Two suspected cases of COVID-19 returned positive results on preliminary testing,’ a spokesman for the state’s health authority said.
‘One suspected case had recently travelled to Melbourne and had returned prior to hotspot travel restrictions coming into force.’
Two people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Albury on the edge of New South Wales and Victoria. Pictured is an electronic sign in the town urging residents and travellers to keep the town free of COVID-19 on May 6
The border west of the town will be closed at 12.01am on Wednesday in the wake of urgent crisis talks between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the premiers of NSW and Victoria Gladys Berejiklian and Daniel Andrews.
Victoria recorded 127 new cases on Monday – a new record for the pandemic.
Since last Monday Victoria has detected 628 new infections, only 13 of whom are returned overseas travellers in hotel quarantine.
The closure – which will be enforced by the army and police at 55 border crossings – has come as a massive shock to the mayors of Albury and Wodonga, which sits on the other side of the border in Victoria.
Albury City Mayor Kevin Mack said he felt as though the border communities were being penalised despite recording no recent cases.
‘It’s just unfortunate that five per cent of Melbourne population mean the whole states of NSW and Victoria are being penalised,’ Mr Mack said.
New South Wales Health officials wearing protective clothing looks on as travellers disembark the XPT Train from Melbourne at Sydney’s Central Station on Friday
‘I don’t think people understand border communities. We’ve got kids going to schools on both side of the border and people travelling across for health services every day.
‘People aren’t as worried about the pandemic, they’re worried about their day-to-day existence and how that’s going to be impacted.’
The border consists of 33 bridges and two waterway crossings. Aerial surveillance will also be enforced to stop people making a break for the border through bushland or rivers.
Northern Victoria MP Tim Quilty said he and his community, which includes the border towns Wodonga and Mildura, were ‘shocked and appalled’ by the decision.
Police guard access to housing commission apartments under lockdown in Melbourne on Monday.
‘Everyone’s confused and shocked, outraged. The phone’s been ringing, everyone’s saying the same thing, (they’re) worried and confused about if they live in Albury and work in Wodonga,’ Mr Quilty told AAP on Monday.
A permit system is expected to allow locals to cross the border for work and health services, but Mr Quilty said he didn’t see it going ahead seamlessly and was worried about punishments for those who cross without a permit.
The permit system will be coordinated by Service NSW and is expected to be established in a few days.
‘It doesn’t make economic sense, it doesn’t make virus sense. There hasn’t been a case in regional Victoria for three months now,’ Mr Quilty said.
This graph shows the number of locally acquired cases that Victoria has suffered since last Monday
‘For months now I’ve been calling the restrictions in the regions to be different to Melbourne because we’re in different situations.’
NSW had until now been the last state to allow an open border with Victoria.
Ms Berejikilan has said her government’s decision to close its border with hard-hit Victoria state marks a new phase in the country’s coronavirus pandemic.
‘What is occurring in Victoria has not yet occurred anywhere else in Australia,’ she said Monday. ‘It´s a new part of the pandemic and, as such, it requires a new type of response.’