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Vic minister backs border police presence

A Victorian government minister has rejected suggestions it is time to redeploy police from the NSW border, as the states extended their local coronavirus-free streaks.

Victorian Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt on Wednesday said it was time to bring home the 850 officers deployed to the border operation, which he described as a “huge chunk” of the force.

He noted that Victoria currently lists just one NSW local government area – Cumberland – as a red zone, with the northern state recording no new community transmission of coronavirus for 10 days in a row.

On Wednesday, Victoria reached three weeks without any new local infections.

“Our members are telling us they are of very, very limited value there now based on what’s occurring in NSW,” Mr Gatt told 3AW.

“We have to start genuinely thinking about bringing those officers home.”

But Victoria’s trade, tourism and sports minister Martin Pakula defended the police border presence.

“As soon as police can be reasonably redeployed from the border … they will be,” Mr Pakula told reporters.

“We’ve still got one zone in NSW which is red (and) there is a still a border permit process in place for the border crossing.”

There were two new Victorian cases in hotel quarantine, but Mr Pakula said neither of them were associated with the Australian Open.

He added that an element of backlash from the elite athletes in hotel quarantine was inevitable.

Spanish ace Roberto Bautista Agut last week likened the conditions to a prison. He later apologised for these remarks.

“In an environment where you’ve got hundreds of elite athletes who are confined to corners for a couple of weeks, there’s always going to be some complaints – it’s a massive adjustment,” Mr Pakula told reporters.

“But those rules are there for a reason and whatever rules are in place beyond the quarantine period … ought to be followed by the players.

“That’s what Victorians expect them to do.”

There are 31 active coronavirus cases in Victoria, the Department of Health and Human Services said on Wednesday.

The federal government’s temporary suspension of Australia’s travel bubble with New Zealand remains in place.

Anyone who arrived in Victoria from New Zealand between January 14 and January 25 should get tested within 72 hours of arrival and isolate until they get a negative result, the DHHS said.

Travellers entering Victoria in the 72 hours following the travel bubble suspension, announced at 4.30pm on Monday, will be placed into mandatory hotel quarantine for 14 days.

“If you plan to travel to Victoria from New Zealand over the coming days, you are strongly encouraged to reconsider,” the DHHS said.

Victorian testing numbers are up slightly, with 13,612 results received in the 24 hours to midnight on Tuesday despite the Australia Day holiday.

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