SYDNEY • Several major Australian businesses urged a swift reopening of state borders yesterday, even as the authorities warned against complacency as new cases of the coronavirus appear to be trending lower.
Many internal borders in Australia have been closed to contain the spread of the virus – with Victoria and New South Wales accounting for almost all new cases – and most states and territories have vowed to keep them shut for months to come.
Qantas Airways said yesterday the closures were severely hampering a recovery in the domestic aviation market, which, alongside a lack of international flying, would lead to a significant loss this financial year.
The airline was running only 20 per cent of its usual domestic schedule this month due to states closing borders, which chief executive officer Alan Joyce said “doesn’t seem to make any medical sense”.
Retail conglomerate Wesfarmers also called for a quick reopening of state borders, with CEO Rob Scott saying the restrictions were causing “enormous hardship”.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has expressed frustration at the economic impact of the closures, has written to state leaders about the problem they have caused for farmers, said Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.
The complaints came as Australia’s second-most populous state of Victoria, the country’s Covid-19 hot spot, reported a small increase in new daily infections to 240 cases over the past 24 hours.
The figure, down from more than 700 late last month, will buoy optimism that a hard lockdown of state capital Melbourne is containing the spread of the virus.
Victoria’s deputy chief health officer Allen Cheng told reporters: “There are still 240 today. So those numbers are still too high. But… they are coming down, they’re going in the right direction.”
New South Wales recorded just five cases, although Premier Gladys Berejiklian said there was still concern over the number of unknown cases. “It’s important that the community continues to embrace those Covid-safe behaviours, such as social distancing and wearing a mask,” she said.
Australia has recorded just over 24,000 Covid-19 infections, with 463 deaths.
Meanwhile, neighbouring New Zealand confirmed five new cases yesterday as part of a community outbreak, bringing the total number of active cases in the country to 101.
It’s important that the community continues to embrace those Covid-safe behaviours, such as social distancing and wearing a mask.
MS GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN, premier of the Australian state of New South Wales.
All the new cases are linked to previous cases in the Auckland family cluster, Health Director-General Ashley Bloomfield told a daily briefing.
There are no new cases in managed isolation.
Of the five cases in the community, four are Auckland-based. One case is currently in Waikato Hospital near Auckland, Mr Bloomfield said.
There are six people receiving hospital-level care for Covid-19, all in stable condition, he said.
There are 133 people linked to the cluster who have been moved into the Auckland quarantine facilities.
This includes 65 people who have tested positive and their household contacts, according to the ministry.
Of the 80 cases in the community outbreak, 78 are linked to the Auckland cluster and two cases remain under investigation, Mr Bloomfield said.
As of last night, the total number of cases confirmed in New Zealand stood at 1,654.
Auckland, which is New Zealand’s largest city, will remain in Covid-19 Alert Level 3 till next Wednesday before further lockdown decisions are made, with the rest of the country staying in Alert Level 2 with relaxed restrictions.
Under Level 3, businesses are required to implement Covid-19 safety measures, but most people are encouraged to work from home and school children learn from home.