Sydney, Australia, Jul 6 (efe-epa).- Australia’s most populous states of Victoria and New South Wales will close their shared border starting midnight on Monday amid a spike in coronavirus cases in the city of Melbourne.
The closure of the border between the two states, which had remained open even at the peak of the COVID-19 crisis in Australia, was announced after 127 infections were recorded in Victoria on Monday, the highest number of cases in that jurisdiction since the start of the epidemic, in addition to the death of a man in his nineties.
The combined population of the states of Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) is 13.9 million, representing more than 50 percent of Australia’s total.
The closure, the first in some 100 years since the Spanish flu pandemic, was agreed upon in a telephone call between the premiers of Victoria and NSW, Daniel Andrews and Gladys Berejiklian respectively, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
NSW officials will monitor the border, the length of which spans 4,635 kilometers (2,880 miles), “so as not to be a drain on resources that are very much focused on fighting the virus right now across our state,” said Andrews.
“We know there are four primary road crossings, 33 bridges, two waterway crossings and multiple smaller roads,” NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said in a press conference in Sydney.
“There are 11 local government areas [and] five police districts that will all have to pull together to make sure this operation is a success,” he added. “I have been in contact with defense department this morning and we will seek a fresh request for defense assistance with the border operation.”
Authorities will also issue special permits for those who have to cross the border for work, especially for essential services.
The border closure follows an outbreak in Melbourne, which has worsened in the last two weeks and has led to more than 30 suburbs of the city of nearly 5 million inhabitants to be placed under lockdown in recent days along with nine public housing towers.
The coronavirus outbreak has been attributed to breaches of infection control protocols by security guards in hotels, where travelers returning to Melbourne undergo a 14-day quarantine.
The spike in Melbourne, which is recording almost all of the daily infections in Australia, has put the country’s strategy to normalize the economy and activities at risk.
The country has recorded more than 8,500 cases, including 106 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. EFE-EPA