Victoria is still a “long way” from opening its border with New South Wales after the state’s northern neighbour recorded 18 cases of community transmission.
Half of the new cases belong to the Sydney northern beaches cluster, while a second cluster has emerged in the city’s west, along with cases in Wollongong, south of Sydney.
Victoria’s Police Minister Lisa Neville says decisions about the border are being made on a daily basis, but based on health advice no one is ready to contemplate changes.
“We’re still a long way from that border being open,” she said.
Neville wouldn’t rule out extending the red zone, with concern for cases outside the northern beaches.
“I know we were concerned about the Wollongong spread and the case there, and that occurred I think through churches, so we’ll continue to monitor this and if we need we’ll extend that red zone,” she said.
Victoria on Dec. 30 marked 61 days without a local transmission of coronavirus and just one case of a returned traveller in her 20s, who is in hotel quarantine.
There are only eight active cases, all in hotel quarantine or self-isolation, including seven international travellers and a teenager girl at home after contracting the virus in NSW.
Neville acknowledged the effect the border restrictions had on local communities, but said people were largely supportive.
“We all do want to say goodbye to this year, we all do hope that 2021 is a better year that we’ve got ahead but we don’t have a vaccine,” she said.
“It has been a very hard year and we have done an incredible thing as Victorians—let’s not risk it as we celebrate the end of 2020.”
Despite Victoria’s two-month stretch without local transmission, and an overwhelming desire to see the back of 2020, celebrations for the new year will be muted on Thursday night.
Melbourne fireworks that would draw nearly half a million revellers any other year have been canned in favour of lower-key celebrations than the occasion deserves.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said it was natural people would want to celebrate at the end of a difficult year.
But cancelling the fireworks meant a celebration of the city’s hospitality industry, inspired by European piazzas and squares, could go ahead instead.
Nearly a dozen outdoor dining precincts have been set up across the city, including Hardware Lane, Chinatown, Spring Street and Little Bourke Street.
“We decided to keep our city open, to keep supporting those businesses that really add so much to Melbourne’s character and personality, recognising that for all those business owners and their teams one of the best things we can do to bring in the new year is to show our support for them,” she said.
One thing will remain normal—additional police will be on patrol in uniform and plainclothes, with dogs and horses and on the water.
Victoria had 8,731 test results received in the previous 24 hours, nearly 2000 more than Tuesday.
VICTORIA’S NYE RULES:
* Up to 30 visitors to your home per day with no limit on the number of households they’re from.
* Up to 200 people meeting outdoors in public.
* Practice physical distancing, and wear a mask if you can’t maintain 1.5 metres from people you don’t live with.
* Masks are mandatory on public transport and rideshare services.
* Only share happy new year hugs and kisses with immediate family and those you live with.
By Karen Sweeney