Cars Cross Victorian Border Without Stopping as Concerns Grow Over Sydney COVID-19 Cluster

Australian Associated Press is an Australian news agency.
December 20, 2020Updated: December 20, 2020

Cars are crossing the NSW border into Victoria without being checked, according to a local mayor, after a state government request for additional Defence support has had a limited response.

The Victorian government requested 200-300 Australian Defence Force personnel to help with planning, logistics and surveillance on Saturday night, but Defence has so far only committed to 50 additional personnel.

On Sunday, Victoria announced it was shutting its border to people travelling from greater Sydney and the NSW Central Coast over a growing coronavirus cluster.

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley on Monday said 700 police had been deployed to patrol the NSW border.

He added that local government area bubbles had been established on either side of the Victorian-NSW boundary to allow those in border communities to cross the following presentation of their driver’s licence.

However, Wodonga mayor Kevin Poulton on Monday said he crossed from his Albury home to Victoria in the regular 15 minutes without being stopped or checked by police.

“They’re still putting their measures in place at the moment … nothing was checked,” Mr Poulton told 3AW Radio.

“It looks like they’re working extremely hard to get themselves ready. They’re setting up a fairly significant operation here … but I would imagine by later today every vehicle would be stopped and checked.”

Additional ADF support has been requested to provide planning, logistics and surveillance for the operation.

Police Association Victoria secretary Wayne Gatt on Monday said the extra help from the ADF was crucial given policing was at its “busiest” in December.

“Without the support of those men and women we’d be on our knees by now in terms of resourcing,” Mr Gatt told 3AW Radio.

Defence say they already have 235 personnel supporting Victoria’s hotel quarantine program and any additional ADF backup will “not provide direct support to vehicle checkpoints on the NSW/Victoria border”.

“Defence has provided extensive support to Victorian authorities under Operation COVID-19 Assist, with more than 3000 ADF personnel deployed to Victoria since June,” an official told AAP.

“As a result of requests for additional support from the Victorian government, Defence will provide at least an additional 50 personnel to provide planning and logistics support.

“Defence will continue to work with Victorian authorities to determine how best it can continue to assist in its COVID-19 response.”

From Monday, most people travelling from greater Sydney and the NSW Central Coast – or who visited those areas since December 11 – will not be able to enter Victoria.

Anyone who is permitted to enter will have to undergo 14 days of hotel quarantine.

The one exception is returning Victorians, who have until midnight on Monday to return if they want to be allowed to quarantine at home.

These restrictions will not be lifted on Wednesday evening, unlike many of the restrictions announced in NSW, Premier Daniel Andrews said on Sunday.

People from greater Sydney flying to Victoria were on Sunday allowed to pass into Melbourne Airport without testing on the spot but were encouraged to get tested and self-isolate until receiving their results.

Some travellers from Sydney were also able to walk through the airport without wearing a mask.

The NSW government announced 30 new locally transmitted cases on Sunday, with 28 linked to an outbreak on the city’s northern beaches.

That takes the total number of known coronavirus cases in NSW to 70.

Victoria reported no new local coronavirus cases for the 52nd day in a row, the Department of Health and Human Services said on Monday.

There were also no deaths in the past 24 hours, with one new case acquired overseas recorded after 13,695 test results were received.


Gus McCubbing