Trucks crossing SA border to comply with onerous conditions

With a hard lockdown of the Victoria and South Australia borders coming into effect on 21 August, Victorians living just shy of the SA border – in or near towns like Kaniva – have been told only essential travellers can enter SA from that date onwards.

The SA government has stated education, shopping and medical care will no longer be legitimate reasons for entering the state.

West Wimmera Shire Mayor, Bruce Meyer, said the announcement had resulted in total confusion.

“SA has virtually shut the border and all hell has broken loose,” said Meyer. “People are asking what the hell is going on?”

The border confusion follows restrictions on Victorians entering New South Wales.

Meyer said Victorian students who went to school in SA would have to stay home, with the only exemptions being for years 11 and 12.

“There are still going to be exemptions,” he said. “Transport is going to have priority, you will still be able to shift stock and grain into SA, but the driver must have a valid COVID-19 test, which must have been performed within the last seven days. The difficulty is, where do you get your test?”

Meyer said currently Victorians living within 40 kilometres of the SA border were allowed to cross into that state, providing they had regular tests.

“Essential workers are not supposed to leave the border zone to go to Horsham or Nhill for testing, as that takes them out of the zone and they will potentially lose their exemption,” he said, adding that a truck driver recently took a load of livestock into SA and spent three hours waiting for a test. “What's going to happen with the grain harvest, and what happens if your driver gets sick, or breaks a leg, who do you get? If you need an emergency driver, he won't be able to get a valid test.”

West Wimmera Shire grain and oilseed growers, according to Meyer, needed to deliver products to the SA border towns of Wolseley and Frances.

“We have some very large grain growers who live within two or three kilometres of the Frances silo,” he said.

The Shire was pushing to get a mobile testing station, now based in Horsham, to come to each of the five border communities for one day at a time.

Meanwhile, the recent growth in coronavirus case numbers in Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat had seen the government install three new testing sites in those centres.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said there would also be increased staff and hours of operation at existing test sites in the three cities.

The increased testing push is expected to allow the government to trace any cases and eventually stop any spread.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng said officials were looking at the numbers every day.

“It's sort of a day-by-day proposition,” he said.

Andrews said there had been a rise in positive test results in regional Victoria – including Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.

He said that while the numbers were very low, coming off such as a low base any additional cases are cause for concern.

He added that most people throughout regional Victoria had done a great job in following the rules throughout the pandemic, but it was important that they stay the course.

“Even at low numbers we've got to have vigilance across the board to keep them low and drive them down further,” he said.

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