Australia Rings In 2021 With New Pandemic Restrictions, Traffic Jams
SYDNEY: Australia welcomed 2021 with subdued celebrations, as fresh coronavirus restrictions and border closures in the country’s two most populous states forced families to ditch New Year plans.
Local media reported traffic jams at border check-points stretching as long as 40 km (25 miles), as people rushed home to avoid border restrictions that kick in from midnight.
New South Wales (NSW), the epicentre of the latest outbreak, reported three new coronavirus cases overnight from more than 32,000 tests.
“The strong message from us is to be on high alert, come forward and get tested with the mildest of symptoms,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney, urging people to wear masks.
Sydney’s famous fireworks went ahead above deserted streets as gatherings were banned, while the Harbour sported just 20% of the vessels typically seen on New Year’s Eve, authorities said.
Neighbouring Victoria reported no new virus cases in the 24 hours to midnight, though authorities expect numbers to rise in coming days. The state has a cluster of eight cases, with some believed linked to the Sydney outbreak.
The outbreaks in the two states occurred after weeks without any community transmission.
“The NSW link is still our primary line of investigation for this outbreak,” said Martin Foley, health minister for Victoria state, which this week limited indoor gatherings to 15 people and reintroduced mandatory masks indoors.
“We expect genomic testing to come through very shortly.”
South Australia state on Thursday said the infections in Sydney had led it to put up a hard border with NSW starting Friday, with only returning residents, essential workers and people relocating to the state allowed entry.
Australia has reported just over 28,400 COVID-19 cases and 909 deaths since the pandemic began. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/34pvUyi)
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