Health Minister Martin Foley has urged Victorians not to travel to NSW, warning stricter border restrictions could be imposed to keep coronavirus out of the state.
As Victoria recorded its eighth consecutive day with no community transmission of COVID-19, NSW recorded 38 new cases, bringing the total number of locally acquired infections in the state to 395.
“Can I please issue this very strong message to all Victorians: do not travel to NSW,” Mr Foley told reporters on Thursday.
“The risk grows and the threat grows and having worked so hard to get to this level that we have in Victoria, we do not need Victorians entering and coming back from NSW.”
He said red zone classifications in place for Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Shellharbour and Wollongong are unlikely to be downgraded anytime soon.
“If anything, we might well see some circumstances of tougher arrangements applying across NSW as that position becomes more precarious,” Mr Foley said, refusing to rule out a hard border with the northern state.
He said Victorians can return home on a red zone permit but must spend 14 days in quarantine when they return.
Red zone classifications in Brisbane, Morton Bay and the Sunshine Coast are also unlikely to be downgraded until there is a “pattern” of no community transmission in the region.
The ACT and all other local government areas in NSW, Perth and Peel in WA, Darwin and Alice Springs in the NT and large parts of Queensland remain orange zones, meaning people must get tested within 72 hours of arriving in Victoria.
The situation in other states meant plans for Victoria to return to COVID-normal restrictions were put on hold. Instead, Melbourne will from Friday move to the same restrictions currently in place in regional Victoria.
Masks will no longer be required at schools and in workplaces where staff are not interacting with the public, while retail, hospitality and other venues will be able to increase their capacity, and dancefloors can reopen.
“We don’t apologise for that careful, cautious approach to allow us the safe steps we need to stay open,” Mr Foley said.
The total number of active cases in Victoria is 21, three of which are locally acquired.
Some 27,420 tests were processed in the 24 hours to Thursday morning, while 15,875 Victorians received a vaccine dose at one of the state-run hubs.
Mr Foley said Victoria will enter a “vaccine drought” over the next six to eight weeks due to federal government supply issues.
But some 30,000 Pfizer second dose appointments will be made available within the next three weeks.