SYDNEY: On Sunday, Sydney was isolated from the rest of Australia after all the states and territories of the world placed travel bans on its citizens as the city’s coronavirus cluster rose to around 70.
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) sent a stern “do not come to us” letter to Sydney, the most populous city in the world with more than five million inhabitants, warning its citizens that if they came, they would be quarantined for 14 days.
The ACT health department said, “If you are not an ACT resident and have been in greater Sydney… our message is simple: do not travel to the ACT.”
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As of Monday, the states of Victoria and Queensland, and the Northern Territories, have banned people from entering from Sydney.
To further enforce the recent designation of greater Sydney as a Covid-19 hotspot, Queensland police will reintroduce road checks at the New South Wales (NSW) state border.
The state of South Australia placed a 14-day quarantine on Sunday for Sydney arrivals and banned travellers from the affected suburbs. Similar measures were taken by the island state of Tasmania on Saturday. The state of Western Australia has enforced a tough boundary closure.
Travellers from elsewhere in NSW, where Sydney is the state capital, would need paperwork stating that if they want to cross state boundaries, they are not originating from the affected Sydney suburbs.
Around a quarter of a million residents were put under a tight lockdown before Christmas Eve in Sydney’s northern beach suburbs, where the epidemic happened.
Rachel Buxcon, a former northern beach resident, said, “If we can lock here and get rid of it, fantastic and everyone else can be free.” “But if it extended, then they were all together in it.”
NSW State Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian said on Sunday that public meetings in the rest of Sydney would be restricted, with household gatherings, among other limits, capped at 10 participants and hospitality venues at 300.
“To ensure we keep on top of this outbreak, we must take this action now,” Berejiklian said. She also encouraged individuals to wear masks in public in the greater Sydney area, although it was not mandatory.
If you go anywhere in NSW for food shopping, please wear a mask, if you go to a place of worship in NSW, please wear a mask… And for goodness sake, unless you’re wearing a mask, don’t get on public transport,’ she added.
Before this week, Australia has been without any local transmission for more than two weeks and had relaxed several restrictions ahead of Christmas. Christmas holiday travel arrangements have been thrown into chaos by the Sydney epidemic and border restrictions.
For the first time in its 76-year history, the annual Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race beginning Boxing Day Dec 26 was postponed as crews and their families will have to quarantine their arrival in Tasmania.
Mass Christmas cancellations have been swamped with hotels and holiday rentals in NSW and restaurants have seen the number of patrons decrease dramatically, local media reported.
“As we enter the Christmas holiday season, an important reminder is that the virus has not gone anywhere and we must remain cautious,” Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a video clip.