Vaccine rollout inspires Gladys Berejiklian to push national borders


NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has vowed to ramp up pressure on national cabinet to formulate a logical and uniform approach to domestic border closures now the COVID-10 vaccine rollout has begun.

With Prime Minister Scott Morrison among the first Australians to receive the Pfizer jab on Sunday, Ms Berejiklian said there were no more excuses for rogue state premiers to slam borders shut at the first sign of an outbreak.

National cabinet is due to meet again this month.

“I’m going to continue, at national cabinet, to press the issue of internal borders within Australia now that the vaccine rollout has started and (because) we‘ve seen no community transmissions in NSW for a serious (37 consecutive) number of days,” she told reporters at Batemans Bay on the NSW south coast.

“Even when do have (a case) we have managed it well. We should not shut down borders just because there are a few cases we might be worried about. That is no way to run our nation, internally.”

Domestic borders have reopened following various closures during the past few weeks. South Australia had banned travellers from Victoria during the Holiday Inn outbreak.

Western Australia only allowed travellers from NSW back in the state on February 16 for the first time since the outbreak on Sydney’s northern beaches in December.

Ms Berejiklian warned that if a national approach was not adopted, the economic effects would be crippling.

“I understand the international borders (being shut), but I don‘t understand the internal borders,” she said.

“We need to start thinking about the future because we run the risk of being left behind.

“We (Australians) have done incredibly well on the health side, but we also need to do well on keeping the economy going, keeping jobs going because the rest of the world is opening up.

“We do need to think about how we treat each other as states. ”

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SA police to investigate fatal crash near Victorian border


SA police are investigating the fiery crash that killed a truck driver in Victoria near the Bordertown checkpoint where motorists queued to cross before borders closed at midnight.

Even though Victorian Police are looking into the death, SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said he instigated an inquiry into how the state’s border checkpoints were managed.

He said a traffic management expert was deployed with a senior police officer to make sure the current set up was appropriate.

Mr Stevens said it was not fair to speculate if a lack of resources at the Bordertown checkpoint led to the fatality.

“I think we should conduct our inquiries and provide factual information based on the information that we’re able to obtain and be clear in our assessment as to what the circumstances were,” he said.

“Any loss of life on our roads is a tragedy and impacts on so many people.

“This truck driver’s family is now grieving and the people he works with, his friends, his colleagues are all experiencing significant loss.”

The three trucks collided along the Western Highway in Victoria, which is the continuation of the Duke highway in SA.

Just before 2.30am, one truck crashed into the rear of another station truck and hit into a third about 5km east of the border.

All three vehicles burst into flames.

Premier Steven Marshall and SA chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier both offered condolences during a press conference on Thursday afternoon.

It was also announced travellers from NSW and Western Australia would longer need to undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing upon arrival into SA.

Mr Marshall said the changes would come into effect from midnight on Saturday.

It comes as SA closed its border with Greater Melbourne at 12.01am on Thursday.

“We know this (the UK) variant is at least 50 to 70 per cent more transmissible so for people who have been to Victoria, have come across the border and are not in quarantine, it is very important that you all take a look at the DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) website regularly,” Professor Spurrier said.

Professor Spurrier praised her Victorian counterparts for their contact tracing and felt “positive that things would settle down fairly quickly”.

She said the state usually looked for 14 days of no locally acquired cases before easing border restrictions but said it may not be necessary with Greater Melbourne.

“It’s too early to say how long we’ll have that border up for and it will depend on how things go over the next couple of days,” Professor Spurrier said.

“I’m feeling relatively confident, as we’re getting more and more information from Victoria. I’m hopeful that this will settle down.”

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Queensland new border restrictions, declaration passes back from Saturday Feb 12


Travellers entering Queensland from Victoria will be forced to complete a border declaration pass as authorities sweat over the coronavirus outbreak in Melbourne.

Deputy premier Steven Miles said the Sunshine State wanted to rule out any chance of a threat in the community after Melbourne’s cluster grew to eight.

Those entering Queensland will be forced to declare if they have or haven’t visited any of the exposure sites revealed by Victorian health authorities.

The new border restriction will come into effect from 1am on Saturday.

Mr Miles said the outbreak has not required Melbourne to be listed as a hotspot at this stage with the declaration system providing enough of a buffer between Queensland and known infection points.

“We are in a process of reinstating the border declaration system,” he told reporters on Thursday morning.

“That will allow us to check whether they have been in any of the locations that have been identified by the Victorian contact tracers, whether they are required to get tested, and to notify them that that is the case, and require that they isolate if that is the case.

“And also keep a record of people coming to Queensland from areas that may, down the track, need to be declared a hot spot so we can contact them.”

The decision comes after South Australia announced it would close its border to greater Melbourne last night.

Under the changes, travellers who have been in Greater Melbourne on or after 4 February will no longer be allowed to enter SA unless they are a returning resident, are genuinely relocating, are essential travellers or are escaping domestic violence with approval prior to entry. COVID-19 testing and self-quarantine may apply to these people.

People who have been at the Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport on or after 12.01am 27 January or are a close contact of a person who has must contact SA Health immediately and quarantine at an authorised location for 14 days, receiving COVID-19 tests on days 1, 5 and 12.

Anyone who was in South Australia before 12.01am on Thursday having visited Greater Melbourne must have immediately taken a COVID-19 test and self-quarantined until they received a negative test result, and must get tested again on day 5 and day 12.

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Canberra hot air balloon sculptures fail to fly


Unfavourable winds have delayed the flight of a new power couple of hot air balloon sculptures.

Canberrans gathered before dawn on Sunday to see the launch of the iconic Skywhale and her new partner, Skywhalepapa.

But unfavourable winds meant the 30m high structures were unable to be let loose across the ACT sky.

The Skywhales, designed by artist Patricia Piccinini, did not get clearance from air traffic control to takeoff because of the direction the wind was blowing.

The balloons needed an easterly wind to take off but the morning’s gusts were coming in from the west, which would pushed them towards Canberra airport.

They at least provided a spectacular backdrop for selfies while they were anchored to the ground although they did manage to launch about 30m into the air.

The sculptures were officially unveiled on Sunday outside the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra’s Parliamentary Triangle.

After three flights across Canberra, the balloons are to take a two-year national tour across the country, including to many regional centres.

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extra checks announced on returned travellers


NSW Health officials have stepped up hotel quarantine testing procedures despite the state bringing up its 20th straight day without a positive case.

The zero local case result came after 12,521 tests in 24 hours, with an additional two cases also detected in returning international travellers.

NSW Health said they would be ramping up checks on people after they left hotel quarantine and asking them to get tested two days after they departed.

Contact tracers will call the returned traveller 48 hours after their quarantine period ends and ask them to attend their local testing clinic.

“If travellers being tested on day 16 are asymptomatic, they will not have to isolate further due to the lower risk of them returning a positive result,” NSW Health said.

Authorities are also targeting people who have recently been in Victoria.

Those entering NSW via Victoria via air and rail are required to complete a passenger declaration form.

Providing false information could result in an on-the-spot fine, NSW Health said.

Non-NSW residents who have visited the public exposure sites listed by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services are banned from entering the state.

“NSW Health continues to urge people to come forward for testing with even the mildest of cold-like symptoms that could signal COVID-19, such as a sore throat, cough, fever or runny nose,” NSW Health said.

“After testing, you must remain in isolation until a negative result is received.”

Meanwhile, additional cleaning squads have been rolled out across the Sydney CBD transport network.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said roving teams at Central, Town Hall, Wynyard, Circular Quay and Martin Place were cleaning touch points and handing out free masks.

“In addition to the cleaners on our services, we have now rolled out additional cleaning squads to keep stops, waiting areas and even bike racks clean to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” Mr Constance said.

“More than 1,000 touch points are cleaned each shift at Central, Town Hall, Wynyard, Circular Quay and Martin Place, and more than 92,000 masks have been handed out to customers since the squads first popped up during the Northern Beaches outbreak.

“The teams can be deployed quickly to areas where there has been a COVID-19 breakout or where a major event is taking place, like the SCG for the cricket.”

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SA revokes hard border with WA, implements hot-spot system for Greater Perth


South Australia has immediately dropped its hard border arrangement with Western Australia and has reverted to a hot-spot model with Greater Perth.

The tough border restrictions were first implemented on Sunday, no longer allowing anyone from the state to enter South Australis.

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said the rapid response was precautionary.

Mr Stevens – who is also the sate co-ordinator – on Monday said it was possible the border arrangements would ease once the state received more information about how the situation was being handled from its West Australian counterparts.

But, following the state’s Transition Committee meeting on Tuesday, he told reporters the border arrangement changed “effective immediately” to a hot-spot system.

It means only travellers from the lockdown zone in Greater Perth are not permitted to enter the state.

However, those from regional Western Australia can enter or leave their South Australian quarantine as long as they received a negative day one test result.

They also need to undergo testing on days five and 12.

“As a result of the advice of SA Health, in consultation with their counterparts in WA, we’ve made the decision to restrict our lockout for WA to just the area affected by the lockdown,” Mr Stevens said.

“It’s about the information provided by WA; monitoring their activity, the level of testing they’re undertaking, how they’re managing the contact tracing.

“At this point we’re comfortable we can constrict our level of restrictions to the Greater Perth area.

“This is a good step forward and a considered approach based on the information we received.”

Mr Stevens also revealed testing requirements for those coming from NSW would end on February 13, which will be 28 days since the last reported locally acquired case there.

“We’re at that point where they won’t need to have any obligations on them as they come in,” he said.

Premier Steven Marshall, who addressed the media prior to the announcement, said the advice received by his West Australian counterpart Mark McGowan was to close the border.

“We need to take a precautionary on approach,” he said.

“As more data comes in, we’ll be in a position to see how long those restrictions will need to be put in place.

“We’ve said from day one we don’t want to have restrictions in place for one day longer than they need to.”

Perth was thrown into a five-day lockdown after a COVID-19 hotel security guard – who also worked as an Uber driver – contracted the virus.

While unknowingly infectious with the UK variant, the man visited several locations across Perth.

The state’s Transition Committee will meet again on Friday.

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Zero new cases on Saturday as restrictions ease


New South Wales recorded no new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours up to 8pm on Friday, marking the thirteenth day of zero community transmission in the state.

If the trend stays constant on Sunday the state will notch up two weeks with no local cases for the first time since the northern beaches outbreak prompted restrictions over the Christmas period.

Two cases were recorded in returned travellers in hotel quarantine.

There were 10,504 tests in the period to 8pm on Friday and the total number of cases in the state since the beginning of the pandemic is 4912.

NSW are urging residents to remain vigilant and social distance where possible following the easing of restrictions across Greater Sydney on Friday.

The 13 day streak comes as the Victorian government relaxes the state border with NSW, now allowing all Greater Sydney residents to enter the state.

Victoria’s traffic light permit system has moved all local government areas except one to a green zone, meaning most Sydneysiders will not need to get a COVID-19 test in the first three day of being in the state.

Travellers will still need to apply for a permit with the Victorian government.

The Cumberland LGA, which is associated with the Berala cluster, is the only area deemed an orange zone by Victoria and residents from that shire will need to get a test on arrival.

NSW Health urges anyone to come forward for testing if they are feeling unwell and showing the slightest symptoms of a cold or flu.

There are more than 350 testing locations across the state.

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Heavy rain, thunderstorms, flash flooding expected to hit Melbourne


Melbourne is bracing for up to a month’s worth of rain to fall in one day after heavy downpours brought flooding and damaged buildings across the city.

A severe weather warning for heavy rainfall and isolated thunderstorms remains in place for southern Victoria with the heaviest falls expected to hit Melbourne from late Tuesday morning until the evening.

The weather bureau has warned heavy rainfall could lead to flash flooding in parts of western and central Victoria with up to 70mm possible in some areas.

State Emergency Service volunteers have already responded to 91 requests for help across the state in the past 24 hours, including 51 in the central region, which includes Melbourne.

Frankston and Greater Dandenong were the hardest hit areas with 15 call-outs.

An SES spokeswoman said 29 calls for help were for fallen trees, 21 for building damage and 20 for flooding.

Melbourne is bracing for more heavy rain on Tuesday.
Camera IconMelbourne is bracing for more heavy rain on Tuesday. Credit: News Corp Australia, Ian Currie

The highest rainfall totals between 9am on Monday and 4.45am on Tuesday were at Cape Nelson in southwest Victoria, which recorded 42.8mm, while Portland saw 39.6mm, Port Fairy 35.4mm and Rowville and Lang Lang each received 23.4mm.

In the city 13.2mm has fallen since 9am on Monday, while Frankston has recorded 30.2mm and Moorabbin Airport 25mm.

The weather bureau said the rain could ease across the city for periods during Tuesday morning but would increase again during the middle of the day.

Widespread falls of between 20mm to 40mm is expected across Melbourne on Tuesday, with up to 70mm possible in areas hit by isolated thunderstorms.

Locations likely to be affected by heavy falls include Warrnambool, Maryborough, Ballarat, Geelong, Melbourne and Bacchus Marsh.

Bureau of Meteorology senior meteorologist Claire Yeo said some areas could receive more than the December monthly average rainfall in one day if hit by thunderstorms.

“The rainfall across Victoria is actually being sourced from the northwest of the country where there’s an active monsoon across the Kimberly district of Western Australia,” she said.

“This moisture is actually providing a conveyor belt of moisture that in combination with an upper trough is generating the heavy rainfall that we’re seeing develop across the southwest and central parts of our state.”

The SES has urged people to avoid travel if possible and to stay away from dangerous hazards, such as floodwater, mud, debris, damaged roads and fallen trees.

It also recommended people to stay indoors when the rain hit and away from trees, drains, gutters, creeks and waterways.

jack.paynter@news.com.au



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Queensland fire authorities urge Fraser Island residents to prepare to leave as blaze edges closer


Queensland fire services have told Fraser Island residents to prepare to leave as a bushfire at the tourist hot spot continues to burn out of control.

A bushfire is burning near Dundonga Creek, east of the resort and village, through to Cornwells Road in the island’s south.

Firefighters are continuing to battle the blaze, assisted by water bombing aircraft which have dropped almost one million litres in the past 24 hours.

At 11.20am on Saturday, fire crews were fighting fires in several locations on the island.

Firefighters are continuing to battle the blaze, assisted by water bombing aircraft which have dropped almost one million litres in the past 24 hours.
Camera IconFirefighters are continuing to battle the blaze, assisted by water bombing aircraft which have dropped almost one million litres in the past 24 hours. Credit: Supplied, QFES

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services said weather conditions were predicted to deteriorate from Sunday through to Wednesday.

“Smoke will affect visibility and air quality on K’gari (Fraser Island) and adjacent mainland areas over the coming days,” a QFES spokesman said.

People in the area are being directed by QFES and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services to prepare to leave.

“Multiple fire crews are working to contain the fire but firefighters may not be able to protect every property,” QFES said.

The Fraser Island fire as seen from River Heads. Photo: Stuart Fast
Camera IconThe Fraser Island fire as seen from River Heads. Photo: Stuart Fast Credit: News Regional Media

Locals are being urged to listen to local radio or check the Rural Fire Service website for further updates.

The fire began more than six weeks ago after an illegal campfire was lit.

The eastern side of the fire is about 3.5km northwest of Happy Valley.

The eastern side of the fire is located about 3.5km northwest of Happy Valley.
Camera IconThe eastern side of the fire is located about 3.5km northwest of Happy Valley. Credit: Supplied, Facebook/Glen Winney

A “stay informed notice” is in place for people in the Eli Creek, Yidney Rocks, The Oakes and Poyungan Valley area.

Travel to the island is restricted to local residents only.

“Where ground crews cannot access the inaccessible terrain, water bombing aircraft are working to reduce the intensity of the fire,” QFES said.



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