Australian officials were scrambling on Tuesday to implement a travel permit system before closing the heavily trafficked border between its two most populous states as it attempts to contain a coronavirus outbreak in the city of Melbourne.
The state line between New South Wales and Victoria is due to close at 11.59 p.m. on Tuesday for the first time in 100 years. The highly porous border, with 55 roads, is travelled daily by commuters and school children, while some businesses straddle both sides.
New South Wales is issuing daily crossing permits for residents on both sides of the border, but Premier Gladys Berejiklian has acknowledged there could be a delay, although she hoped the permits would be ready before the closure.
“I genuinely hope that they will be, and there’s every chance that they will be,” Berejiklian told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday.
“There will be queues, there will be frustration, there will be lots of questions but we’re doing this to keep everybody safe,” she added.
The border closure was announced on Monday after a recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Melbourne, the Victorian capital, which prompted authorities to reinstate strict social-distancing orders in 30 suburbs and put nine public housing towers into complete lockdown.
The Melbourne outbreak is almost entirely responsible for a rise in the average number of daily cases nationally to 109 over the past week, compared with an average of just 9 cases daily over the first week of June.
Australia has reported just short of 8,600 cases so far during the pandemic and 106 deaths, including two reported in Victoria on Monday.