Virus Hotspot in Australia Faces Isolation From Rest of Country

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Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous state, faces isolation from much of the country due to a spike in coronavirus cases that’s jeopardizing the economic recovery.

Queensland state on Tuesday announced it will reopen its borders to the rest of the nation from July 10 but restrict entrance to people from Victoria. South Australia said it will remain indefinitely shut to its neighbor but may allow other visitors from July 20.

The delay in reopening borders will concern Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has announced a three-step plan to remove most social-distancing and lockdown restrictions by the end of July in a bid to bolster the crippled economy.

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While Australia has been one of the stand-out performers globally in limiting the spread of the virus to less than 8,000, the flare-up -- mainly amid Melbourne’s poorer and more multicultural suburbs -- shows just how it will be hard to eradicate without a vaccine.

The resurgence in Victoria is in stark contrast to the nation’s other seven states and territories, some of which have gone for weeks without recording community transmissions.

It recorded 64 new cases on Tuesday from the day before -- at least the 14th consecutive day of double-digit increases, though down from Monday’s total of 75.

“We just can’t risk removing border restrictions for people coming from areas of Victoria right now,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

From July 10, all visitors to her state must sign a declaration at the border stating they have not been to Victoria for 14 days. Anyone who has will be prevented from entering unless they complete 14 days of hotel quarantine at their own expense.

South Australia is still considering opening to New South Wales, the most populous state and home to Sydney, and the Australian Capital Territory, on July 20.

“This decision will be difficult for those with loved ones in Victoria but we can’t risk South Australia going backward,” South Australia Premier Steven Marshall said.

Western Australia has delayed its announcement to reopen and remains shut to all interstate visitors, while Tasmania has penciled in July 24 but may reverse that depending on the situation in Victoria.

Of Victoria’s 321 active cases, 281 have been acquired through unknown transmission. To combat the surge, the Victorian government is blitzing 10 Melbourne suburbs with a team of 800 testers in a fleet of vans. Residents of these suburbs will receive free testing, with or without symptoms.

The Herald Sun newspaper reported on Tuesday that the state government was considering a four-week lockdown of localized suburbs.

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