July 22, 2020 / 1:25 AM / 18 days ago

Melbourne residents ordered to wear masks as Australia coronavirus cases rise

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Residents of Australia’s second most populous city Melbourne must wear masks when leaving home from Wednesday, as tougher border restrictions were put in place with neighbouring New South Wales state to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Cross-border travel between Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) will now only be permitted for work, education or medical care, after the border was closed earlier this month for the first time in 100 years.

Staff or students travelling from Victoria into NSW to attend boarding schools or universities are now required to self-isolate for two weeks and test negative to coronavirus, while seasonal workers from Victoria are barred.

Melbourne has seen a rapid increase in the number of coronavirus cases in recent weeks, with the virus spreading to many aged and nursing homes and some prisons.

Victoria has recorded just under 6,300 total confirmed cases of COVID-19, nearly half of the total infections in Australia. The state recorded 364 new cases on Tuesday.

Australia has recorded nearly 12,500 COVID-19 cases and 126 deaths since the pandemic began earlier this year. Though the overall health outcome is better than many of its rich world peers, authorities and policymakers are increasingly worried about spread of the virulent disease in Melbourne.

In NSW, of which Sydney is the capital city, 16 new COVID-19 cases were recorded with Premier Gladys Berejiklian saying the state was on “high alert” due to community transmissions and new locations of cases.

She raised concerns over another Black Lives Matter protest planned next week, as a possible vehicle for the spread of the virus.

“Irrespective of the issue, we need to follow the health advice. Large crowds are a huge concern. We cannot allow that march to continue unfortunately,” Berejiklian said.

“It’s just not sensible at this time to expose yourself and others to the spread of the virus. We’re at a critical point in New South Wales and we don’t want to see the virus spread and actions like that are a huge health risk.”

Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Michael Perry

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