Victoria's border with NSW is set to become stricter from midnight with border bubble residents only given six reasons to cross the Murray River without a permit despite there being "no known cases" in the bubble.
Health minister Martin Foley joined Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton in a virtual press conference to address border media on the changes and said the strict rulings were "not just about protecting capital cities" but the whole state.
Mr Foley said if a ring of steel around Sydney had been implemented, "these measures might not have had to be taken".
"We certainly don't want to see a situation of returning to the hard border and the disruption that that creates," he said.
"The advice that we've got is that this is not so much about protecting capital cities, it's about protecting all of regional Victoria and metropolitan Melbourne."
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton acknowledged there were no known active cases in the border region.
"I don't expect that it will be a slow geographical creep down through regional NSW, necessarily, it is more likely to be ... a jump from a permitted or authorised worker from an area where there's increasing activity of the virus.
"We know that the risk is there because of that.
"Regional NSW has done a fantastic job of being vigilant ... but at the moment, with the trajectory in Greater Sydney, and as the Minister said, with some modelling and the commentary by the NSW government itself, that risk is not going to diminish in the immediate term.
"It is better to get ahead of it - it does mean that you're responding when there are no cases now."
Border bubble changes
Under the changes, border bubble residents can only cross the border to enter Victoria without a permit for:
- Necessary goods and services, including medical care and getting a COVID-19 test
- Care and compassionate reasons
- Paid or voluntary work (including for charitable and religious purposes)
- Education (including childcare and early childhood services)
- Getting a COVID-19 vaccination
- Sport and exercise at a sporting club or at a sport or physical recreation facility (excluding alpine resorts)
Those on the Victorian side will also have to follow these reasons if they want to go back to Victoria without applying for a permit.
For example; Bendigo residents who wish to holiday or visit family and friends in Moama will not be able to do so without a permit if they wish to return home.
Mr Sutton said sport had been kept as a reason to cross as a "balance" of risk and allowing movement.
How long will they last?
Mr Foley indicated the restrictions would be in place well into August, with modelling indicating NSW's outbreak will continue into September.
"The changes are all about making sure that we keep the border bubble operating, whilst at the same time, limiting the movements to what's reasonable, and through those pretty broad six categories of activity, keeping communities operating as best and effectively as we can, and try to maintain the integrity of the border bubble proposition," he said.
"There's been a degree of consultation with the Cross Border Commissioner, education, health agencies, LGAs and others, so as to make sure that any issues aren't inadvertently created - we're pretty confident that that's the case.
"It'll be enforced in the normal way; I wouldn't expect communities to see any difference in how it's enforced (by Victoria Police)."
IN OTHER NEWS:
He said the Victorian government has "a great deal of empathy" for businesses on either side who will lose revenue as a result but did not foreshadow border-specific support, noting the Victorian-Commonwealth program currently open.
"We don't underestimate the impact on other normal operations of businesses, but again, it's a measure that we have to reluctantly take," Mr Foley said.
There will be further information made available at coronavirus.vic.gov.au.
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