Truck drivers still exempt as Victoria extends SA controls


Hard border for others as Victorian testing option for trucking begins

Truck drivers still exempt as Victoria extends SA controls
SA interstate truck driver testing has been lifted

 

Essential travellers, which include truck drivers, will still be able to pass into Victoria from South Australia, despite a temporary hard border, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews announces.

With Victorian Covid-19 testing available since midnight for truck drivers entering from the state’s west, the hard border for others will be operational for 48 hours from midnight tonight.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews makes plain that the state government takes the risk of freight transport as a possible vector for the virus into the state seriously, given new evidence.

"Fragments of the virus that causes coronavirus were detected in untreated wastewater taken from Portland and Benalla wastewater treatment plants on Tuesday 17 November," Andrews says.

"The preliminary positive test results received yesterday are unexpected and concerning given there are no residents of either area known to have had a recent coronavirus illness or diagnosis.

"Residents of Portland and Benalla and anyone who has visited between 15 and 17 November with any symptoms at all are urged to get tested, and to isolate until they get their result.

"Hours will be extended at local testing sites for the coming days, with additional testing capacity to be made available. Further wastewater samples are being taken from those two towns – and this detection has no impact on local water supplies.

"With community transmission clearly happening in South Australia and in light of the wastewater test results along freight routes in Victoria, the government is following public health advice and has made the difficult decision to introduce temporary border controls with South Australia."

Meanwhile, the SA effort to contain the outbreak sees a lifting of the burden on freight transport there.

"In South Australia, commercial transport and freight services workers are no longer required to have a Covid-19 test before entering South Australia," the SA Police force advises.

"Due to our current Circuit Breaker in South Australia we are unable to accommodate testing for this category of Essential Traveller.

"However, all other restrictions are still in place and we would like to encourage anyone in this category to get tested in their home state before they enter South Australia."

The statement comes as SA chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier confirms no new infections have been recorded in the state.

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) notes that under this hard border arrangement, only freight drivers and those with medical or emergency reasons, animal welfare or as authorised by law will be permitted to enter Victoria.

"The Victorian government is finalising details of the permit scheme, however we expect freight workers carrying out their essential work will qualify, so long as they meet any conditions of the permit," VTA CEO Peter Anderson says.

"In our consultations with the government on these announcements, we have sought to ensure any new border crossing requirements are clear, balanced and equitable, and that transport operators are afforded enough time to ensure they can comply with any new conditions.

"Victorians have made incredible sacrifices over the past four months to reduce community transmission and it is appropriate that steps are taken to ensure this good work is not undone.

"The VTA will keep members posted on any changes ahead of the permitting system taking effect from midnight this Saturday."

It notes that, from today, interstate truck drivers travelling through Victoria from South Australia will be offered extra Covid-19 testing at a site at Nhill on the Western Highway, with other testing sites being activated at other major freight routes.

"It is our understanding that testing is not a requirement for heavy vehicles at this stage," Anderson says.

"We welcome feedback of drivers’ experiences at the border over the days ahead so we can advocate for any adjustments where necessary."


Read how the SA Covid spike led to a Victorian reaction, here


The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) welcomes an exemption for truck drivers but continues to seek answers on testing at the border.

TWU Victorian Tasmanian branch secretary John Berger says the union began discussions with the Victorian government yesterday.

"We are pleased the Victorian government has consulted us on this issue to ensure truck drivers will be able to enter Victoria from SA when the border shuts tonight," Berger continues.

"We do not want to see a repeat of the difficulties truck drivers experienced when they entered NSW from Victoria a few months ago after the border shut.

"Confusion and delays on the border can have massive effects on supply chains. We urge the Victorian government to immediately provide much needed information to truck drivers. Information must include details about testing wait times, drivers’ ability to continue work while awaiting test results and assurances around traffic flow management."

TWU SA/NT will monitor the situation, including drivers’ access to road houses for showers and hot meals.

"Truck drivers are performing a critical service at this time, getting supplies of food, fuel and medicines across borders," branch secretary Ian Smith says.

"They need protections and supports.

"We urge state authorities to ensure exemptions remain in place so that drivers can access truck stops with showers, hot meals and rest areas.

"Drivers should be given masks, sanitizer and gloves and they should be paid pandemic leave if they need to self-isolate.

"By protecting truck drivers we can keep these essential workers and the wider community safe."

 

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