Much of the world still appears to be in denial about the coronavirus, which has killed well over half a million people by now. Infection rates continue to climb in many countries. And yet Europe has opened its borders back up for international travel. As have other countries.
We saw an example of how quickly things can go awry in Victoria, which just recorded a fresh Covid outbreak yesterday. According to Premier Daniel Andrews there were 127 new cases overnight as well as one death (there have now been 21 Covid-related deaths in Victoria).
As a result, the border between NSW and Victoria has been shuttered—the first time in a century that such a step has been taken. I was on my way back from buying a new cashmere cardigan when I got wind of this news.
“From 11.59 pm midnight tomorrow night, the border with New South Wales will be closed,” Andrews said Monday. “That is the result of a phone hook-up between the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales and myself just an hour or so ago, where we have, all of us, agreed that the best thing to do is to close the border.”
He added that NSW will enforce the border restrictions so that Victoria is not distracted from dealing with its new virus outbreak. And while the border is closed, exceptions will be made for people with “unavoidable” plans to travel from Victoria to NSW, or those bearing a special permit.
In a presser, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian implicitly rebuked other states that have closed their borders with NSW, asserting that such closures are unnecessary.
“I also stress to the other States, now that New South Wales has taken this decision and given where we are, there is really no excuse for any other State, apart from Victoria, to have any border closures with New South Wales. I urge all the other States of Australia, in our national interest, to think about that.”
Sealing off a border is a drastic move, and there are alternatives, the obvious one being a strict quarantine policy. They could say: if you want to come into NSW from Victoria, you’re obliged to quarantine for a fortnight, no questions asked. (That’s what New York State is doing right now). That has the effect of significantly discouraging travel while stopping short of draconian measures like full border closures, about which many people are understandably wary. However well-intentioned, a state will always—and should always—face tough questions when it seeks to absolutely control its citizens.