SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia welcomed 2021 with subdued celebrations with hopes for a better year dampened by new COVID-19 outbreaks in the country’s two most populous states of New South Wales and Victoria.
Hundreds of families spent New Year’s eve stranded in a kilometre-long traffic jam, media footage showed, as they rushed to their home states to avoid border restrictions that kick in from midnight.
New South Wales is the epicentre of the latest outbreak with a cluster that began in Sydney’s Northern Beaches expanding to 144. An update from the state is due at 0030 GMT.
Neighbouring Victoria reported a cluster of eight cases this week, with some believed linked to the Sydney outbreak. The state, which limited indoor gatherings to 15 people and reintroduced mandatory masks indoors, reported no new cases in the 24 hours to midnight.
The outbreaks in the two states occurred after weeks without any community transmission, and they forced people to cancel New Year plans and rush back home to avoid being quarantined.
South Australia state on Thursday said rising infections in Sydney have led it to put up a hard border with NSW starting Friday, with only returning residents, essential workers and people relocating to the state allowed entry.
Australia has reported just over 28,400 COVID-19 cases and 909 deaths since the pandemic began. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/34pvUyi)
(Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by David Gregorio)