Concerns about the potential spread of COVID-19 outside the Melbourne metropolitan area have been exacerbated by the news overnight that there are two suspected positive cases in Albury.
Southern NSW residents with any symptoms have been urged to come forward for testing.
While the results have emerged from preliminary testing, Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) has confirmed further testing is underway and, as a precaution, close contacts of the two people have been identified and placed in isolation.
One suspected case had recently travelled to Melbourne and had returned prior to hotspot travel restrictions coming into force.
These are the first new positive cases reported in Southern NSW since April 4. For three months the total had remained at 45 from 20,188 completed tests in the district since the outbreak of the pandemic.
As the countdown to tonight’s 11.59 pm shutdown of the border continues, MLHD has urged residents in the Albury area who develop even the mildest symptoms of COVID-19 to come forward for testing.
A pop-up clinic opened this morning at Mirambeena Community Centre (19 Martha Mews, Lavington) to provide additional testing capacity.
People can make an appointment via the Murrumbidgee COVID Hotline on 1800 831 099. Anyone experiencing symptoms can drop in.
On Monday, the Victorian and NSW premiers announced that following a discussion with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the border between the two states would close.
It came as Victoria recorded 127 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday and 191 in the past 24 hours, the highest daily total in the state since the start of the pandemic.
Victoria’s death toll currently stands at 22, while NSW has recorded 51 deaths.
The MLHD says they have implemented increased screening for people who have travelled to Melbourne.
MLHD also say they have been been working with transport providers to ensure the small number of passengers arriving from Melbourne by public transport have been screened appropriately.
Concerns around a passenger aboard the Melbourne-to-Sydney XPT who was put into COVID-19 quarantine on Saturday have been allayed by NSW Health which yesterday confirmed the NSW resident had returned a negative result.
According to Nine News, the passenger, who exhibited signs of COVID-19, had boarded the train in regional NSW and presented with an influenza-like illness at Central Station after the train’s arrival on Saturday morning.
They were immediately transferred by ambulance to hotel quarantine but the news had already rumbled up the track from Albury-Wodonga to the NSW Southern Highlands as it was revealed there were a further 59 passengers aboard the train which stops at stations in every town along the route.
With all interstate travel shutting down, the final Melbourne-to-Sydney XPT pulled into Central Station at 7:00 am today (Tuesday). All passengers were tested and had their details recorded in case contact tracing becomes necessary in the coming days.
From tomorrow, NSW residents returning to their home state from Victoria will be required to self-isolate for 14 days as is currently required when returning from a hotspot.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has warned of major delays when crossing the border with some 55 crossings in play including four road crossings, 33 bridges, two waterway crossings and multiple smaller roads connecting NSW and Victoria.
He has asked the Department of Defence for assistance as he sends 400 officers to police the operation which takes in 11 local government areas and five police districts amid school holidays and at the height of the 2020 alpine ski season.
NSW Premier Gladys Berijiklian has confirmed online permits to cross will be available through Service NSW from today and special provisions are in place for border communities such as Albury-Wodonga as well as freight operations and other critical services.
The MLHD says it has planned for this closure and reassures the community that their health facilities along the border will continue to provide care to both NSW and Victorian residents.
But they are urging people to maintain the COVID-19 safety protocols by practising good hand hygiene, physical distancing and staying at home if you are unwell.
People presenting to MLHD’s hospital emergency departments, or requiring admission to hospital for any reason are screened to ensure the appropriate level of safety precautions are taken during their care.
Staff who have recently travelled to Melbourne are required to be symptom-free for 14 days and will be tested before returning to work.
Visitors are also screened, and will not be permitted entry if they have any respiratory symptoms or if they have travelled to Melbourne in the past 14 days.
Testing is free. Anyone with symptoms should come forward for testing for COVID-19.