Prime viewing positions on the harbour had previously been allocated to frontline workers across NSW, who will now need to join Melburnians on the couch to watch the compressed seven-minute midnight display.
And the couch may be getting more use than usual in Melbourne – underwhelming weather is forecast for New Year’s Eve, peaking at 21 degrees with cloud cover.
Speaking after Victoria recorded a 59th successive day without a locally transmitted COVID-19 case, Health Minister Martin Foley confirmed on Monday that police would patrol the city on New Year’s Eve to ensure Melburnians adhered to coronavirus restrictions.
That means a maximum of 50 people on a dance floor and 30 at home gatherings.
He followed Ms Berejiklian’s drear message with the words no Victorian partygoer wants to hear: “If you are going out, make sure you follow the COVID-safe rules”.
Four of Monday’s cases in NSW were linked to the northern beaches cluster and a fifth remained under investigation.
NSW authorities were still investigating the source of the cluster and while the number of tests dropped to 15,300 for Monday’s results compared with a peak of 60,000 last week, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt praised NSW’s management of the outbreak as extraordinary.
Mr Foley was more circumspect in Victoria, warning NSW was “not out of the woods yet”.
He confirmed Victoria would keep its border shut to travellers from Greater Sydney and the Central Coast for at least another week, dispelling any hopes of last-minute trips between Victoria and Sydney.
“Well, it’s certainly not going to be this week and we’ll continue to take the advice of public health officials as to when that will be the case,” he said.
“There is no chance of the borders reopening for New Year’s Eve … we want to make sure those borders, particularly to the red zones of Sydney and the Central Coast, stay shut down.”
Mr Foley said the borders were a “day by day, week by week proposition” and Victoria was regularly liaising with NSW Health and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee. Travellers from regional NSW who have not visited the red zones are free to cross into Victoria.
“There are 100 cases now associated with the northern beaches outbreak, and there are multiple daily additions to exposure venues right across Sydney,” he said.
Victoria recorded two new COVID-19 cases in hotel quarantine on Monday, taking the number of active cases in hotels to 10.
On the ultimate solution to any border closures, Mr Hunt suggested on Monday that Australia was ahead of schedule with its domestic production and importation plans for the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine though the rollout is still planned for March.
He said the aim was for all Australians to be fully vaccinated by October.
“We’re ahead of schedule and our approach is to under-promise and over-deliver,” the federal Health Minister said.
Australia has recently settled its contract with Pfizer, whose vaccine is already in use in the UK and the US, and expects to have a final assessment of the AstraZeneca vaccine by the Therapeutic Goods Administration in late January or early February.
“I think the latest advice will be very good news for Australians. Pfizer is progressing well, Oxford is progressing well, while we await more data on Novavax, the last advice is it’s progressing well,” Mr Hunt said of the various vaccines.
With Katina Curtis
Start your day informed
Our Morning Edition newsletter is a curated guide to the most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.
Michael is a state political reporter for The Age.
Laura is a crime reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.