MELBOURNE, Australia — The hard-hit Australian state of Victoria recorded two deaths and its highest-ever daily increase in coronavirus cases on Monday as authorities prepare to close its border with New South Wales.
The death of the two men, one in his 60s and the other in his 90s, brings the national death toll from COVID-19 to 106.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said of the 127 new cases, 53 were among 3,000 people who have been confined by police to their apartments in nine public housing blocks since Saturday.
Andrews said the high number of cases reflected a daily record number of tests exceeding 24,500.
Andrews also announced that the state border with New South Wales will be closed from late Tuesday night in an agreement between the two state premiers and Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Morrison had previously opposed states closing their borders.
It will be the first time Australia’s two most populous states have closed their border since the pandemic began.
New South Wales had previously banned travel from dozens of Melbourne suburbs that were locked down last week for a month due to high rates of infection.
The leader of Australia’s most populous state said her government’s decision to close its border with hard-hit Victoria marked a new phase in the country’s outbreak.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian had criticized states that closed their borders to New South Wales residents when Sydney, the state capital and Australia’s largest city, had most of the country’s COVID-19 cases.
She noted the overwhelming majority of new cases in Melbourne in recent weeks were from community transmission. Everywhere else in Australia, the vast majority of cases were people infected overseas or by a returned traveler, Berejiklian said.
“What is occurring in Victoria has not yet occurred anywhere else in Australia,” she said. “It’s a new part of the pandemic and, as such, it requires a new type of response.”
New South Wales police will close the Victorian border from late Tuesday. Some flights and trains services would continue for travelers who are given permits and exemptions, Berejiklian said.