Prime Minister Scott Morrison has vowed to establish a national definition for coronavirus hotspots with or without agreement from state governments.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has been asked to come up with a clinical definition as the federal government pushes states to explain border restrictions.
Mr Morrison will use the definition to put the heat on state and territory governments with harsh travel restrictions on areas without major outbreaks.
“We must not allow this crisis, this pandemic, to force us to retreat into provincialism. That’s not the answer,” he told a bush summit in NSW on Friday.
He said the CMO’s clear definition would be essential for moving away from border restrictions with a greater focus on other containment strategies.
“If you impose a border, you can’t help but cause problems. That’s why we got rid of them in the first place,” the prime minister said.
Mr Morrison said when states and territories unilaterally erected borders in the early stages of the pandemic it wasn’t the most pressing issue.
“If I had my time over, then I think we would have spent more time on that,” he said.
While the states are being invited to sign on to a hotspot definition, the federal government will forge ahead with it regardless of their agreement.
The prime minister praised Denmark, which has a traffic light system for travel restrictions based on the number of infections per 100,000 people.
Border closures have come under renewed scrutiny after the death of an unborn NSW twin whose mother was unable get approval to enter Queensland in time for emergency surgery.
“This is terribly distressing. It’s, it’s heartbreaking,” Mr Morrison said.
“There needs to be an explanation as to how these hard border arrangements can lead to people not getting access to this care as it seems to be the case here.”
Victoria recorded 12 deaths and 113 new coronavirus cases on Friday, while there were 13 fresh infections in NSW.
The national death toll is now 584.
Farmers and border communities continue to raise concerns with restrictions shutting Victoria off from NSW and SA.
NSW has agreed to make the border zone 50km with an agricultural exemption of 100km.
People living or working 40km each side of the South Australia-Victoria border have had restrictions relaxed but remain subject to virus tests.