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“No Entry into New South Wales”: COVID-19 and the Historic and Contemporary Trajectories of the Effects of Border Closures on an Australian Cross-Border Community

Dirk H. R. Spennemann ()
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Dirk H. R. Spennemann: Institute for Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, P.O. Box 789, Albury 2640, Australia

Land, 2021, vol. 10, issue 6, 1-26

Abstract: Given its intensity, rapid spread, geographic reach and multiple waves of infections, the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020/21 became a major global disruptor with a truly cross-sectoral impact, surpassing even the 1918/19 influenza epidemic. Public health measures designed to contain the spread of the disease saw the cessation of international travel as well as the establishment of border closures between and within countries. The social and economic impact was considerable. This paper examines the effects of the public health measures of “ring-fencing” and of prolonged closures of the state border between New South Wales and Victoria (Australia), placing the events of 2020/21 into the context of the historic and contemporary trajectories of the border between the two states. It shows that while border closures as public-health measures had occurred in the past, their social and economic impact had been comparatively negligible due to low cross-border community integration. Concerted efforts since the mid-1970s have led to effective and close integration of employment and services, with over a quarter of the resident population of the two border towns commuting daily across the state lines. As a result, border closures and state-based lockdown directives caused significant social disruption and considerable economic cost to families and the community as a whole. One of the lessons of the 2020/21 pandemic will be to either re-evaluate the wisdom of a close social and economic integration of border communities, which would be a backwards step, or to future-proof these communities by developing strategies, effectively public health management plans, to avoid a repeat when the next pandemic strikes.

Keywords: geographic borders; urban geography; public health measures; contagious disease management (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: Q15 Q2 Q24 Q28 Q5 R14 R52 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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Handle: RePEc:gam:jlands:v:10:y:2021:i:6:p:610-:d:570530