Borders have now slammed shut to Victorians trying to get home from Sydney, as NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian pleads with fellow state leaders to rethink their tough response to the northern beaches outbreak.
A brief border grace period expired for Victorian and Queensland residents coming from greater Sydney and NSW hotspot areas at midnight and 1am on Tuesday AEDT respectively.
There were reports of long traffic queues southbound on the Hume Highway at Albury and northbound on the M1 at Tweed Heads on Monday evening, just hours before the border closures.
Those who successfully crossed in time weren’t required to enter mandatory hotel quarantine, but must instead spend their 14-day isolation period – including Christmas Day – at home.
It comes as Ms Berejiklian made a last-ditch bid to get her state and territory counterparts to consider the “heartbreak” of tighter border restrictions at Christmas.
Residents of greater Sydney have been locked out of most jurisdictions across the country because of the Avalon cluster, which grew to 83 on Monday after another 15 new cases of community transmission were identified.
“It impacts not just people in NSW, but people in your home states that may not have been reunited with family or friends or significant others for a long period of time,” she said.
Her appeal did not deter her Queensland counterpart Annastacia Palaszczuk from announcing on Monday afternoon a hard land border will be reimposed from 6am on Tuesday.
Ms Palaszczuk said there was no other option after police caught almost 200 Sydneysiders in 24 hours trying to enter her state illegally.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison didn’t criticise the border closures, saying it was up to the states and territories to make decisions about public health.
Health authorities say the next few days will be critical, with the NSW government locking down the northern beaches until midnight on Wednesday and resurrecting a small set of restrictions for greater Sydney.