Record virus cases as Vic border closed

By AAP Newswire

Victoria is shut off from the rest of the country after a record number of coronavirus cases prompted NSW to close their border.

NSW was the last state to keep its border open with Victoria, which recorded its highest daily case increase on Monday and had two new deaths.

While locals are angered by the closure, two suspected cases of COVID-19 were reported on Monday in the NSW border town of Albury.

"One suspected case had recently travelled to Melbourne and had returned prior to hotspot travel restrictions coming into force," a NSW Health statement reads.

The two suspected cases returned preliminary positive tests, with more testing underway and close contacts put in isolation

Victoria recorded 127 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, its 20th consecutive day of new cases in the double-digits.

Victoria has 645 active cases, an increase of 585 in four weeks, while other states have remained stable.

A man in his 90s died in hospital on Sunday night, while a man in his 60s died on Monday, bringing the national pandemic death toll to 106.

Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed the border will close at 11.59pm on Tuesday after talks with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and the prime minister.

"We have, all of us, agreed that the best thing to do is to close the border," Mr Andrews said on Monday.

"That closure will be enforced on the NSW side so as not to be a drain on resources that are very much focused on fighting the virus right now across our state."

People will be able to apply for border crossing exemptions while specific arrangements will be in place for residents of towns such as Albury-Wodonga to carry out daily activities or receive health care.

"There will always be exemptions, so we do anticipate there will be some flights and passenger trains," Ms Berejiklian said.

Albury Mayor Kevin Mack feels the border communities were being penalised despite recording no recent cases.

"It's just unfortunate that five per cent of Melbourne population mean the whole states of NSW and Victoria are being penalised," he said.

"People aren't as worried about the pandemic, they're worried about their day-to-day existence and how that's going to be impacted."

Seven emergency department staff at Northern Hospital Epping tested positive to COVID-19 over the past five days, a spokeswoman said.

Contact tracing is underway and the emergency department is undergoing a deep clean, with all its staff being tested as a precaution.

While the emergency department remains open, there is a temporary reduction in non-urgent elective surgery and outpatient appointments to free up resources to keep the ED operating.

Visitors to the hospital have also been restricted as a precaution.

Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton was concerned by the spread of cases in Melbourne, saying a significant number were in suburbs near 12 hotspot postcodes, where stay-at-home orders are currently in place.

"There's significant spillover and so to use the bushfire analogy - there are literally spot fires adjacent to those restricted postcodes," he said.

Professor Sutton said the number of cases in the nine locked-down public housing towers at Flemington and North Melbourne has almost doubled since Sunday, from 27 to 53.

On Sunday, Australia's Acting Chief Health Medical Officer Paul Kelly described the towers as "vertical cruise ships", due to their potential to spread the virus.

Mr Andrews said more cases should be expected as authorities test all 3000 residents of the towers.

Meanwhile, Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton confirmed a 32-year-old resident of one of the towers at Flemington has been arrested for attempting to leave and biting police.

Mr Patton said 500 police will be stationed around the towers each day of the lockdown.

The previous daily high in the number of new COVID-19 cases recorded in Victoria was 111 on March 28.