South Australia state cancels border reopening after virus spike

The Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge are seen amidst the easing of restrictions implemented to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Sydney, Australia June 29, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

SYDNEY, June 30 (Reuters) – South Australia, one of several states in the country to close domestic borders, on Tuesday cancelled its scheduled reopening to some parts of the nation, citing a spike in coronavirus infections in neighbouring Victoria.

The country’s fifth most-populous state had said it would remove restrictions on interstate arrivals on July 20 as part of a broader nationwide relaxation of curbs to contain the new coronavirus.

However, Victoria has reported a double-digit increase in new cases for each of the past 13 days, resulting in Australia’s biggest daily increase in new cases since April.

“We are very hopeful that Victoria will be able to bring their outbreaks under control but at this stage we cannot possibly lift that border on 20 July as we were hoping to do,” South Australia Premier Steven Marshall told reporters.

“We have worked so hard to get ourselves into a very enviable position and we are not prepared to go backwards.”

Marshall said the state would still consider opening its borders to arrivals from other states where infections have been contained, such as Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales (NSW), but did not specify a time.

South Australia’s borders with Western Australia, Tasmania, Queensland and the Northern Territory were reopened earlier this month.

Australia’s delays in reopening internal borders have complicated federal ambitions to set up “travel bubble” with neighbouring New Zealand that would allow the movement of people between the two countries.

Australia has fared better than many countries in the pandemic, with around 7,800 cases and 104 deaths, but the recent surge has stoked fears of a second wave.

After reporting 75 new cases on Monday, Victoria is yet to give a daily update of case numbers on Tuesday.

NSW, the country’s most populous state, said it would continue to keep its border open as it focused on supporting its economy amid the pandemic. The state reported no new cases on Tuesday.

“We’ve even welcomed people who’ve come across our own borders to New South Wales, who had the disease, and we’ve managed that,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.

“There is a path forward because I don’t want to see further jobs go.”