EXPLAINER

Weekend of dramatic border changes

A woman wearing a mask crosses tram tracks in the empty central business district in Sydney on Sunday on the first full day of a two-week COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Getty Images
A woman wearing a mask crosses tram tracks in the empty central business district in Sydney on Sunday on the first full day of a two-week COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic entered a dramatic new phrase over the weekend as NSW metro residents were found in the ACT in breach of quarantine restrictions, the Northern Territory suffered its biggest pandemic scare yet, and police in western Sydney had to act to quell a fresh round of supermarket panic buying.

A national incident team has been set up to manage the NT response where community transmission has been detected for the first time.

Perth and the Peel regions of Western Australia, together with Darwin, Palmerston and Litchfield local government areas in the Northern Territory have now joined the Greater Sydney, Illawarra, Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong in lockdown.

The speed at which state premiers moved to slam shut borders on Sunday and order people into quarantine has reflected the highly infectious nature of the Delta strain of COVID-19, which leaked out of a Brisbane hotel and into a mining community in the Northern Territory.

In the ACT, 50 people from the greater Sydney area, now into its second day of a 14-day lockdown, were found to be in a Braddon hotel in breach of COVID-19 regulations. Six of those people were escorted out of the ACT by police while the rest were ordered to pack their bags and go home.

The Northern Territory, which has been extremely cautious in its management of the virus due to its highly vulnerable communities, is now facing its gravest threat. The virus threat has suspended mine operations, with over 700 workers there now ordered to stay at the site and quarantine.

A mine worker diagnosed with the virus, suspected to be linked to the so-called "Bondi cluster" which sparked the current two-week NSW metro lockdown, returned to Northern Territory's Granites gold mine in the Tanami Desert. The man had previously quarantined in Brisbane at a hotel before going on to the NT.

"I know today is a challenging day for Australia," Australia's Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Sunday, as he continued to urge Australians to get vaccinated.

"These are difficult times. But we will get through this. We have managed this before."

Here is what we know about the current status of COVID-19 restrictions across the country:

ACT

No positive cases have been recorded in the ACT despite the Braddon breach which occurred on Sunday.

Travel to and from the whole of Greater Sydney and surrounding regions should not take place at this time, the ACT government says.

Returning ACT residents from the affected NSW area must travel directly home to where they will complete their stay-at-home period until midnight on July 9.

They must also complete the online ACT Health COVID-19 declaration form within 24 hours of starting their at-home quarantine. For those in quarantine, travel can only be undertaken for essential purposes.

People can only enter the ACT from the affected NSW areas provided they have an approved exemption. Those who breach this regulation could face fines of up to $8000.

NSW

NSW recorded 18 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 on Monday and there are now an estimated 5 million people in lockdown.

They are residence of five NSW metropolitan areas, 35 local government areas in total. Anyone who has visited those designated areas are urged to self-isolate for 14 days and get tested.

The primary source of the NSW outbreak has been the so-called "Bondi cluster" and as of late yesterday there were 87 locations identified on the NSW Health website as places of "high concern" where close contact may have occurred, some dating back to June 11.

These, together with places of potential "casual contact", are listed on the NSW Health website.

The grave concern is that the NSW outbreak is of the highly infectious Delta variant, regarded by the World Health Organisation as "the most transmissable by far".

Queensland

Three new cases were recorded overnight to Sunday. One is an overseas traveller in hotel quarantine. Two were locally acquired and were "out and about in the community" according to health authorities. Their movements are being investigated.

One is a woman who showed no symptoms and completed 14 days of quarantine.

The major concern is a person who had visited the Portuguese Family Centre on June 19.

A Virgin Australia flight attendant who has tested positive was also aboard four flights in and out of Queensland on June 25 and 26. A potential saving grace is that these flights were only carrying a limited number of people and the passenger manifests of those flights, together with the staff, are all the subject of contact tracing.

Queensland health authorities believe its outbreak is of the Alpha variant, not the Delta variant in NSW. Any Queenslanders returning home from the affected NSW areas will need to quarantine for 14 days.

Northern Territory

Three metropolitan areas of the NT began a 48-hour lockdown on Sunday after its first major community outbreak.

Darwin, Palmerston and Litchfield were all in a snap lockdown after they were linked to the mine worker from the Granites gold mine.

Six cases of coronavirus have been linked to the mine worker to date, with authorities anticipating that number would grow this week.

In what Chief Minister Michael Gunner described as the territory's "biggest test", the asymptomatic mine worker went to work and may have transmitted the virus to coworkers between June 18 and June 25.

There are potentially as many as 900 fly-in, fly-out coworkers involved, which has created a mammoth task for contact tracers across WA, Queensland and the NT.

Western Australia

Perth and the Peel regions of WA are under "phase one" restrictions after a woman returned home from NSW, not knowing she had visited an exposure site in Bondi.

Masks will be mandatory indoors and on public transport, and gatherings in private homes will be restricted to 30 people. Crowds were immediately cancelled for major local events such as the AFL blockbuster between the Western Bulldogs and West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium.

Victoria

Like Queensland, a permit system has been set up for anyone travelling into Victoria, which has recorded just one locally acquired case.

Any person who has been in a high exposure zone, including Victorian residents, is not allowed to enter. Any residents returning home from an orange zone, such as the ACT, must travel directly home and quarantine, and get a test within 72 hours.

Victoria recorded no new cases of locally acquired COVID-19 on Monday, on what was Premier Daniel Andrews first day back at work following a fall three months ago.

South Australia

The South Australian announced a ban on travel from the ACT, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and on Sunday. It already had a ban on travel from much of NSW.

Two new cases have been diagnosed. Both were acquired overseas and and both were in hotel quarantine.

SA Health said on Monday, 29 workers from a mine in the NT where a worker tested positive for COVID-19 were self-isolating in South Australia.

Any person arriving in South Australia who has been in NSW in the 14 days prior to their arrival, but not before June 11, is prohibited from entry. Residents and essential travellers are allowed to return.

Tasmania

Although no new COVID-19 cases were recorded, about 5000 people who entered Tasmania from NSW since June 21 and two mine workers in Tasmania linked with the Northern Territory outbreak were told to isolate.

Travellers arriving at Hobart Airport also reported wait times of about an hour with stricter Covid checks in place on arrival.

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This story How Australia's Covid situation impacts your state or territory first appeared on The Canberra Times.