UPDATED: Australia is to formally close the state border between New South Wales and Victoria in response to a growing resurgence of the coronavirus. The move shuts down all travel between Sydney and Melbourne, the two largest hubs of the Australian film and TV industry.
The move was announced Monday afternoon and will take effect from 23.59 local time on Tuesday. It was a decision taken jointly by Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and federal prime minister Scott Morrison.
In the last few days Melbourne has seen a dangerous flare up of coronavirus cases. On Monday, Victoria announced 127 new confirmed cases and one new coronavirus death. The army has been drafted in to help Victoria ramp up to daily testing of 20,000.
Residents of 36 hotspot suburbs of Melbourne were last week put into a local lockdown, though they can leave home for work, exercise, care and grocery shopping. Over the weekend, a hard lockdown was announced at nine tower block residences containing roughly 3,000 people. The tower dwellers have been told not to leave their homes for any reason.
Though air travel between Sydney and Melbourne had dwindled, the internal border between the two most populous states had remained open throughout the coronavirus outbreak. This is the first time the border has closed in roughly a century.
Since January, Australia has notched up 8,500 cases and 106 deaths.
The film and TV industries are certain to be affected by the lockdown, though no productions are known to have been cancelled because of the new lockdown. The border closure comes at a time when the entertainment had begun to turn a corner.
“The problem is that (Victoria and NSW) share personnel a lot. Most productions will have 1 or 2 key cast from the other state. Maybe some lean ones won’t, but probably 90% will,” leading producer Vincent Sheehan (“True History of the Kelly Gang,” “Animal Kingdom”) told Variety.
Sheehan and his partners recently announced the dissolution of Porchlight Films, after 23 years together. Sheehan says he has no detailed roadmap, but plans to remain a producer.
“I have a production supposed to be starting in Victoria in a couple of weeks. With this shutdown we’ll be having daily, if not hourly, reviews of how things stand,” he said.
UPDATE: On Friday, July 6, Caroline Pitcher, CEO of state funding and location attraction body Film Victoria told Variety: “Screen productions are workplaces and Victoria’s screen industry can continue to operate under the current restrictions. We’ve been pleased at the professional and accountable response by producers’ in their immediate adoption of the Victorian Government’s workplace health and safety measures and the Australian Screen Production Industry COVID-Safe Guidelines to support the safe return to work.”
“Victoria is able to independently cater for a number of productions at the same time and we are working with current and upcoming productions and relevant authorities to keep productions shooting.”