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Australia closing internal state border amid rise in coronavirus cases

Australia closing internal state border amid rise in coronavirus cases
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Australian officials will close the internal border Tuesday between the country’s two largest states amid surging coronavirus cases in Melbourne, its second-largest city.

Officials will temporarily close the border between New South Wales, the states where Sydney is located, and Victoria, where Melbourne is located, on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she had changed her mind since earlier in the year, when she pushed back on other states’ decisions to close their borders with her state but said it was vital to close the border amid the Melbourne outbreak, which set a new daily record with 127 new cases overnight Sunday.

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The majority of new Melbourne cases were the result of community transmission, in contrast to other Australian cases, which originated either from Australians who caught it overseas or from people returning from abroad, she added.

“What is occurring in Victoria has not yet occurred anywhere else in Australia,” she said Monday. “It’s a new part of the pandemic and, as such, it requires a new type of response.”

Cases in Australia that originated overseas are down significantly in the past week, with Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd saying they represented only 16 percent of new cases in the past week compared to 50 percent two weeks ago, according to the AP.

The government of Victoria imposed lockdowns on 36 suburbs of Melbourne with the most spread, adding another four over the weekend, according to the AP. Premier Daniel Andrews said 53 of the new cases were residents of nine public housing blocks where residents have been confined to their apartments.

“I think it is the smart call, the right call at this time, given the significant challenges we face in containing this virus,” Andrews said of the border closure, according to the AP.

Australian acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly described the high rises in those suburbs as particularly prone to community spread, calling them “vertical cruise ships,” according to the AP. About 60 percent of Australians live in either Sydney or Melbourne.