The border between Australia's two most populous states -- New South Wales and Victoria -- will close for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic, state officials said Monday, after a sustained spike in virus cases in Melbourne, Victoria's capital city.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the border will be closed from 11:59 p.m. Tuesday after his state recorded 127 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours. The figure is the state's largest one-day spike in confirmed cases since the pandemic began.
The border closure is one that "I think is the smart call, the right call at this time, given the significant challenges we face in containing this virus," Andrews said at a press conference.
The closure is a joint decision between the leaders of the two states as well as Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Andrews said.
The announcement caught communities in the border region off guard, particularly Albury-Wodonga, which gets effectively split in two once the border is closed.
"We are in a really unique situation here, where we got a community of 100,000 people, where the state border is in the middle," Amanda Cohn, deputy mayor of Albury, which sits of the New South Wales side of the border, told ABC News.
Cohn said the border closure particularly impacts the community's health care industry, which is predominantly located on the Victorian side of the border on Wodonga.
Also Monday, Victoria's state government confirmed a man in his 90s and a man in his 60s had died, bringing the national coronavirus death toll to 106.
Over the past week, Australia has averaged more than 100 new cases of coronavirus daily, around 85 of them in Victoria alone.
The sudden spike in cases saw the premier reintroduce lockdown measures at the end of June for residents of 12 postcodes in the greater Melbourne area deemed to be "hot zones."
Among those in lockdown are roughly 3,000 residents of nine public housing blocks who have been confined to their apartments by police since Saturday. Unlike residents of privately owned dwellings, the public housing tenants have been prevented from leaving their homes for groceries or exercise.
Andrews conceded the public housing lockdown was "unprecedented and very challenging" but with 53 total cases connected to the housing towers over recent days, he insisted it was a necessary step.
Australia has recorded almost 8,500 cases of coronavirus nationwide.