A coronavirus tester takes a swab sample at a drive-through testing station in Melbourne
A coronavirus tester takes a swab sample at a drive-through testing station in Melbourne AFP / William WEST

Australian authorities are closing down the border between its two most populous states as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the country.

The border between Victoria and New South Wales will be closed starting Tuesday until further notice to contain the spread of the coronavirus that has been hammering Melbourne city. The decision will be the first time in 100 years that the border will be shut. The last being in 1919 during the Spanish flu pandemic, Reuters noted.

“It is the smart call, the right call at this time, given the significant challenges we face in containing this virus,” said Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who was previously critical of states that closed borders, is pivoting from this stance. She said the situation in Melbourne is unprecedented and indicates the coronavirus has reached a new phase in the city.

“What is occurring in Victoria has not yet occurred anywhere else in Australia,” said Berejiklian. “It’s a new part of the pandemic and, as such, it requires a new type of response.”

Berejiklian also said there is no timetable as to when the border lockdown will be lifted. The military will be on patrol to prevent illegal crossing.

Forty Melbourne suburbs have been on lockdown since last week to help curb the spread of the disease as the cases of community transmission climb. According to the Victoria Health and Human Services, there were 67 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, bringing the total to 2,536 cases as of July 5. Of this total, 2,189 are in metropolitan Melbourne and 258 in regional Victoria.

As of Sunday, 3 p.m. AEST, there were 8,449 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Australia and 104 deaths. There are 30 total hospital admissions, 26 of which are in Victoria. There are also three cases in intensive care in the state, according to data from the Australian Government Department of Health,

Australia has recorded an average of 109 cases daily the past week compared to just 9 cases in the first week of June.