Australia will ring in the new year with harsher restrictions on movement, gatherings and internal borders as New South Wales and Victoria battle to quash fresh COVID-19 cases in their capital cities.
Victoria, will limit indoor gatherings to 15 people and reintroduce mandatory masks indoors starting Thursday, a day after it reported three new cases that ended its COVID-free streak of more than two months.
Though cases slightly eased NSW, authorities described the situation as “very volatile”.
“Pleasingly, we have seen the numbers go down today... but they are going to bounce around and what is really important is for all of us to do everything we can to reduce our mobility,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.
Authorities have tightened rules ahead of New Year’s Eve, hoping to avert community transmission, as cases are expected to rise in the coming days because of family gatherings and travelling during the holidays.
In NSW Only residents with permits for hospitality venues will be allowed into the city on New Year’s Eve and households across Sydney are only allowed to host five people (including children). Outdoor gatherings are limited to 30 people.
In Victoria 15 people are permitted at home gatherings and mandatory masks indoors. The only people allowed into the central business district (CBD) are those who already have a booking at a hospitality venue.
In Queensland people are allowed 50 people in the home, 100 in a public space for a private gathering, and 100 people outside in a public space on New Year’s Eve.
Sydney’s virus clusters continued to grow, with the latest one in an inner-west suburb rising by three cases in the last 24 hours. The cluster detected in the northern seaside areas in mid-December now includes nearly 150 cases.
NSW reported 10 new local cases compared with 18 a day earlier, while Victoria added three to its tally.
Meanwhile, South Australia state on Thursday said rising infections in Sydney have 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.
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