Only people in red hotspots like the Northern Beaches Council are unable to enter the state. Those already here will be required to head into 14-day mandatory quarantine.

Compared to other states, the severity of Victoria’s border restrictions sit somewhere in the middle of the pack.

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“It is a good idea. It’s very pragmatic, because what we’re seeing is a rapidly evolving situation,” said Associate Professor Hassan Vally, an infectious disease epidemiologist at La Trobe University.

“We have three choices: do nothing, shut down the border completely and assume there was a severe risk, or we could do what we’re doing right now which is a very nuanced, pragmatic approach.”

The system has not been used before in Victoria. On Saturday, the Department of Health and Human Services were unable to provide any information about its origin or strategy.

Queensland uses a simple hotspot system – it has declared only the northern beaches a hotspot – and allows returning travellers to re-enter the state.

South Australia on Friday started requiring border entry permits from people entering from any state.

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It is only banning people who have been at the exact venues – an RSL club and a bowling alley – where the virus is believed to have been spread. People who have travelled through the Northern Beaches must quarantine for 14 days.

Tasmania has banned all travel from people who have visited the Northern Beaches.

West Australia has by far the harshest border rules. The state will require anyone travelling from anywhere in NSW to quarantine for 14 days.

How the system works

Everyone who wants to travel from NSW into Victoria, including returning travellers, needs a permit. This includes people who are transiting through Sydney Airport onto another flight into Victoria. NSW itself does not require a permit to travel.

To get a permit, you must declare you are free of COVID-19 symptoms. Permits should be received within five minutes of applying, the government says, and you can apply via your smartphone.

The traffic-light-style system applies different restrictions on travel based on where a person visited in NSW.

People who travelled only to the green or orange zones are largely free to enter as they want so long as they have a permit.

If you have visited an orange zone you will be tested when you cross the border, and encouraged – but not required – to self-isolate until your test results come back.

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If you refuse a test you will be sent to mandatory hotel quarantine.

“As conditions are expected to deteriorate, and you may not be able to re-enter Victoria without undertaking quarantining for 14 days … don’t go to Sydney if you’re planning to go to Sydney,” Health Minister Martin Foley said on Friday.

If any of the locations you visit in NSW are later declared high-risk, your border permit will be declared invalid and you could be stuck across the border.

The red zone covers only one local government area: Northern Beaches Council, which runs along the coast from Manly to Palm Beach and covers about 270,000 people. The whole area headed into lockdown at 5pm on Saturday.

People who have travelled to or through Northern Beaches cannot enter Victoria at all.

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