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Asia Today: Australian states reimpose travel restrictions

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Shoppers wear masks as they walk around a shopping precinct in Sydney, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021. Masks have been made mandatory in shopping centers, on public transport, in entertainment venues such as a cinema, and fines will come into effect on Monday as the state government responds to the COVID-19 outbreak on Sydney's northern beaches, which is suspected to have also caused new cases in neighboring Victoria state. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

SYDNEY – More Australian states and territories are reimposing travel restrictions to prevent the coronavirus spreading from new outbreaks in New South Wales and Victoria states.

The Australian Capital Territory has shut out non-residents who have been in the northern beaches of Sydney, where the outbreaks are most concentrated, Greater Sydney and other smaller centers, unless they have an exemption.

The island state of Tasmania has barred anyone directly linked to the latest Victorian cases, listing exposure sites where confirmed cases are known to have been. The move followed Tasmania’s declaration of Greater Sydney and the Wollongong area south of Sydney as medium-risk zones, requiring travelers to quarantine for 14 days on arrival, while those from Sydney’s northern beaches are barred from entering.

Victoria reported three new cases of community transmission on Sunday, down from Saturday’s 10. In total, there have been 21 locally acquired Victorian cases over recent days, all linked to the New South Wales outbreak.

Victoria’s border is now closed to all travelers from New South Wales.

On Sunday, New South Wales recorded eight new local cases. There are 161 active cases in the state, most of them in the northern beaches of Sydney, and 13 emanating from liquor store that are not connected to the beaches cluster.

The news that the state is battling two separate outbreaks in Sydney comes on the first day of mandatory mask restrictions across Greater Sydney, with enforcement to begin at midnight Sunday.

Masks will be mandatory in shopping centers, on public transport, in places of worship, hair and beauty premises and entertainment venues such as cinemas. All hospitality staff are also required to wear one.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Officials have tested more than 4.4 million residents in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang after the discovery of a new cluster. So far, only one case has been confirmed from the testing. Another case was reported in a different city in Liaoning province. China on Sunday reported a total of eight domestically transmitted cases, including in northeastern Heilongjiang province, an 8-month-old infant in Beijing, and one in Hebei province just outside of Beijing. Authorities across China are on high alert as new cases continue to emerge. Both Beijing and Liaoning province reclassified some areas as medium risk while sealing off the residential compounds where earlier cases were discovered. Two universities in Beijing announced on Saturday that winter vacation would start earlier than usual in light of the epidemic situation. Meanwhile, Beijing city also started mass vaccinations for priority groups. China approved its first domestic made COVID-19 vaccine Friday.

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