CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s highest court yesterday upheld a state’s border closure and dismissed billionaire businessman Clive Palmer’s argument that the pandemic measure was unconstitutional.
The seven High Court judges ruled that Western Australia’s state border closure to non-essential travel applied during “a hazard in the nature of a plague or epidemic” complied with the constitution Australian states and territories used border restrictions to curb infections and a court ruling against Western Australia could have impacted their pandemic responses.
The state shut its border to the rest of Australia on April 5 and maintained the travel restriction despite not recording a case of COVID-19 community transmission since April 11.
Western Australia will relax its border policy on November 14 and allow residents from states and territories deemed low risk to enter without going into quarantine.
The state government argued the measure let its iron ore mines maintain output and earn their highest prices in six years while their main rivals in Brazil had production disrupted by pandemic absenteeism.
Palmer, a mining magnate, took court action in May when he was refused permission to enter the state.
His lawyers argued that the border restriction unreasonably infringed upon Australians’ constitutional right to free travel between states.
Separately, an inquiry into quarantine troubles in Melbourne recommended that police guard the hotels where returning overseas travellers stay. The Victoria state government’s decision to use private security firms instead of police and the military to enforce quarantine in Melbourne hotels has been widely blamed for lax controls that led to a virus surge in Australia’s second-largest city.
An inquiry into that quarantine programme recommended in an interim report “a 24/7 police presence on-site at each quarantine facility”.
Meanwhile, China has temporarily banned the entry of foreigners from at least eight countries as COVID-19 cases rise in Europe and elsewhere. Non-Chinese can no longer enter from Russia, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Philippines, India and Bangladesh, even if they hold a valid visa or residence permit for China.
Embassies in those countries posted online notices in recent days announcing the temporary suspension of entry. China enacted strict measures to guard against new infections from abroad.
Health authorities yesterday reported 30 imported cases in the most recent 24-hour period, including 15 in Shanghai. That brought the total number of imported cases during the pandemic to 3,510.
India recorded 47,638 new cases of the coronavirus, taking its total to 8.4 million. Deaths rose by 670 in the last 24 hours, driving total fatalities to 124,985 yesterday, the Health Ministry data showed. India has the world’s second-highest caseload behind the United States.
Even though the country has seen a steady dip in cases since mid-September, its capital is witnessing a surge in infections. New Delhi recorded nearly 6,700 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, the second-highest single-day spike since the pandemic began.