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Travel disrupted as states tighten borders

Holiday travel plans across the country continue to be thwarted as states and territories tighten their borders to prevent coronavirus seeping in from NSW and Victoria.

The ACT has shut out non-residents who have been in NSW’s northern beaches, greater Sydney, Wollongong and parts of the central coast unless they have an exemption. Those found entering without permission could be fined up to $8000.

ACT residents who have been in one of the NSW hotspots can still return home but need to notify the territory’s health department of their plans via an online form and then quarantine for 14 days.

Tasmania has barred anyone directly linked to the latest Victorian virus cases, listing exposure sites where confirmed cases are known to have been.

The locations rated “high risk” include a Thai restaurant in Melbourne’s southeastern suburb of Black Rock, which is linked to multiple positive cases.

The move followed Tasmania’s declaration of greater Sydney and the Wollongong area as medium-risk zones, requiring travellers to quarantine for 14 days on arrival, while those from Sydney’s northern beaches are barred from entering.

Victoria reported three new cases of community transmission on Sunday, down from Saturday’s 10 fresh cases. In total, there have been 21 locally-acquired Victorian cases over recent days, all genomically linked to the NSW outbreak.

Victoria’s border is now closed to all travellers from NSW.

Testing sites in Melbourne and surrounds have seen long queues and hours-long wait times as thousands returning from NSW rushed to get tested.

Victorian frontline workers who carried the state through its second wave in 2020 were called out of holiday breaks to boost the state’s testing capacity.

Victoria had gone 60 days without community transmission when the first few NSW-linked cases were reported on Wednesday.

NSW recorded seven new community cases on Saturday and Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced face masks would be mandatory for many indoor settings.

She had previously opposed the idea but said the change of heart balanced the health risk and security of citizens while allowing businesses to operate.

The Australian Medical Association commended the decision after calling for mandatory mask-wearing since the start of the northern beaches outbreak.

Western Australia reimposed a hard border with NSW on December 19 and then with Victoria on Thursday. The state recorded three new cases in overseas travellers on Saturday.

The Northern Territory has revised its public health orders and barred entry for all greater Sydney residents.

The NT recorded seven new positive cases on Saturday among Australians who came in on repatriation flights – one from London and six from Chennai, India.

South Australia has re-established its hard border with NSW, along with a 100-kilometre buffer for border communities. SA authorities are communicating with travellers about Victorian exposure sites via text message.

Queensland’s border is closed to anyone who has been in the COVID-declared hotspots of greater Sydney and surrounding areas in the past 14 days.

The state has not yet imposed border restrictions on Victorians but Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young said on Saturday she was “very concerned” at how the situation was escalating.

Queensland confirmed one new overseas-acquired case of COVID-19 on Saturday and maintained its streak of no community transmission.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday he respected the decisions of state and territory leaders to shut their borders but understood why people had been left frustrated.

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