Vic health workers return to fight virus

Victoria now has 18 locally acquired coronavirus cases, all linked to clusters seeded by the New South Wales northern beaches outbreak.

Just four days ago, the state had been on a two-month streak of no community transmission.

Genomic sequencing has found the latest Victorian cases originated from Sydney’s Croydon and northern beaches clusters.

Health Minister Martin Foley on Saturday acknowledged the widespread disruption of closing Victoria’s border with NSW, but made no apologies.

“Given all that we’ve sacrificed last year, I don’t think Victorians would expect anything else from the government that wants to keep their safety and their wellbeing as its first priority,” he said.

The border closed at midnight on Friday.

Now, anyone who tries to cross into Victoria with be turned back.

The only people who can freely cross from NSW to Victoria are essential workers, such as freight drivers, and border community members along the Murray River with permits.

Others must apply for an exemption via the coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398.

Other states and territories have made increasing efforts throughout the week to protect themselves against infections from Victoria.

WA has reimposed a hard border with Victoria and other states are selectively shutting their borders to anyone who has been in the same location as a confirmed case.

Meanwhile, a young couple is trying to avoid possible fines of $19,000 each for breaching health directions at Melbourne Airport on New Year’s Day.

Terry and Debbie Elford are accused of absconding from authorities after they got off their flight from Canberra on January 1 and travelling all the way to Goulburn in NSW.

But in a statement to media on Saturday afternoon Mr Elford said they were sorry and just got confused with the fast-changing border rules.

“We were stopped by (DHHS) officers who were not able to tell us whether or not we needed to quarantine, so after about an hour or so we walked away,” Mr Elford wrote.

He said the couple got in touch with police once they saw media reports about themselves, went to get tested for COVID-19 and are self-isolating.

There are 29 active cases in Victoria, including 18 locally acquired cases and 11 in hotel quarantine.

Testing centres have been working longer hours to meet demand from travellers returning from NSW who require mandatory testing, those identified as close contacts and those who have been in exposure sites.

Hundreds of staff who worked on the front line of the pandemic all year have returned early from their holidays to increase the capacity of testing sites across the state, Victoria’s health department said.

Victorian exposure sites are now in: Black Rock, Brighton, Cape Schank, Cheltenham, Doveton, Forrest Hill, Fountain Gate Shopping Centre, Hallam, Glen Waverley, Lakes Entrance, Leongatha, Mentone, Mordialloc, Melbourne CBD, Moorabbin, Mount Waverley, Oakleigh, Southbank, and Wonthaggi.

Specific locations within those suburbs can be found on the Department of Health and Human Services website.

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