Industry reacts to South Australia border closure

Under the hard border closure that came into effect overnight only operators of freight vehicles will be permitted from South Australia into Victoria.

The news came amid reports of 36 suspected new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, despite a lack of any new cases  being confirmed yesterday,  as interstate transport services were again confronted with confusion regarding delays and border access.

State Governments and industry associations have been quick to alleviate fears that conditions would deteriorate to those experienced by drivers when resulting closures saw the shared border between NSW and Victoria closed in July for the first time in over a century.

The Victorian Government confirmed yesterday that all truck drivers entering the state from South Australia will have to get tested for COVID-19.

A new testing site has been set up in the town of Nhill in western Victoria, with additional sites earmarked for the major freight routes.

In response to the ‘circuit breaker’ six day hard lockdown ordered by the South Australian Government, Adelaide-based Hi-Trans Express reassured its customers it would continue to operate as it was considered an essential service.

“Hi-Trans as an essential service that will continue to operate to ensure supply chains stay open to ensure the transport of essential goods into and out of South Australia continues,” the company said.

“To all South Australians stay safe and as a proud SA Company we will get through this together.”

With a further eight days of modified shutdown to follow the initial six day lockdown in which residents were only permitted to leave their homes to stock up on supplies, Woolworths has already announced it will be expanding trading hours across its South Australian stores.

It confirmed an offering of an additional 16 hours of trade for local communities over the next fortnight.

From Saturday 21 November-Sunday 6 December 2020, Woolworths’ trading hours will operate as follows:

Woolworths Supermarkets South Australia General Manager, Karl Weber said the supermarket chain was expanding its opening hours over the next two weekends to help support physical distancing for the busiest days of trade.

“We’re grateful to the South Australian Treasurer for delivering this flexibility, so we can better meet the needs of the community through this period,” he said.

“Pleasingly, we’ve seen demand moderate today and we hope to see that trend continue,” said Weber.

“Our team members and supplier partners will continue working around the clock to restock our stores, so we ask customers to shop as they usually would and only buy what they need.”

Despite this chaotic scenes of panic buying have already erupted in South Australian supermarkets from Mount Gambier to Adelaide.

Victoria Police have established check points on roads between South Australia and Victoria in an approach designed similarly to its ‘Ring of Steel’, the controversial perimeter that encircled metropolitan Melbourne while travel restrictions were in place.

Regional Victoria and nearby border communities are expected to brace for the latest round of economic impacts from these border controls with many woodchip mills being forced into temporary shutdown and South Australian truck drivers forced to stay at home for at least six days.

Victorian Transport Association CEO Peter Anderson, however, expected freight workers carrying out essential work would qualify for exemptions to cross into Victoria, providing they met the conditions of a permit.

“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,” he said.

“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,” said Anderson.

Transport Workers Union SA/NT Branch Secretary Ian Smith said the union would be monitoring the situation.

“Truck drivers are performing a critical service at this time, getting supplies of food, fuel and medicines across borders,” he said.

“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.”

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