Authorities are preparing for a last-minute influx of travellers from Victoria into South Australia ahead of a hard border closure due to take effect at midnight tonight.
- Victorians attempting to cross the South Australian border will be turned away from midnight tonight
- SA’s Police Commissioner said the Defence Force could be called in to help barricade roads
- Border communities are still seeking clarification about whether existing exemptions will continue
SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens yesterday imposed a hard border with Victoria due to the eastern state’s “clear threat” to public health in SA.
As of midnight, only residents returning to South Australia or those granted a special exemption will be allowed to pass through checkpoints along the border.
Anyone returning will still be required to self-isolate for 14 days, while Victorian residents attempting to cross will be turned away, unless they are essential travellers and abide by strict conditions.
Commissioner Stevens this morning reaffirmed that police would consider calling in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to help barricade roads into the state to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
He said consultations with the ADF were underway about how such an arrangement would work.
“We’re quite aware of the fact that every time we send another group of police officers to a border checkpoint responsibility … we’re depleting our ability to attend to those traditional-type policing roles,” he said.
The commissioner said states would not automatically qualify for ADF assistance, and were required to use local authorities first.
“We have to demonstrate that we have completely exhausted all local resources before we make a request to the Defence Force,” he said.
“Up until this point in time, we’ve had more than enough resources to deal with the way we’ve been managing our border controls.”
He said other options to enforce the restrictions could include traffic management companies or private security agencies.
Western Victorians seeking clarity on exemptions
Glenelg Shire Mayor Anita Rank — whose council region lies in the far south-west of Victoria, along the South Australian border — said she is working to clarify whether the existing exemptions for people living in border communities will continue to apply.
She said border town communities are looking to “understand what those tougher restrictions are”.
“That’s where their relationship is, with towns in South Australia.
“So we just have to work with them [authorities] in the next 24 hours to understand what that actually means.”
Ms Rank said people living in Victorian border towns, such as Nelson, were “already feeling anxious” before the hard border was announced.
“I think now we need to ensure that common sense is granted to them on the basis that it is essential travel, or it is for work, or it is for education, or it is for essential supplies,” she said.
“It’s very different to us further down in the shire, say in Portland, with regards to travelling across to South Australia — we do not need to do that.”
Ms Rank said her region had previously seen the effects of people travelling from Melbourne hotspots into rural and regional areas.
She supported Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ city-wide lockdown, as well as South Australia’s tightened border restrictions, but said places along the border “are very different”.
“They’re doing an amazing job, they’re doing all the right things,” she said.
“If there are no COVID [cases] in those communities, and they go about their daily business doing transactions between Nelson and Mount Gambier … I don’t think anyone’s arguing that shouldn’t occur.”
‘We need to stick together’
Ms Rank said she hoped there would not be queues of people lining up at the border to “flee” the state.
“I hope people are not that stupid,” she said.
“Although, I think that’s what we’re hearing and what we’re seeing at the Victorian-New South Wales border.
Leaders on the South Australian side of the border have also called for leniency for local residents.
Renmark is just over 25 kilometres from the Victorian border and about 140km from Mildura.
Renmark Paringa Mayor Neil Martinson said a cross-border travel bubble would allow local residents in eastern SA access to medical support and services in Mildura.
“We have elderly people, frail people, that may have to drive from here to Adelaide for a three-hour journey … instead of going to Mildura for an hour and 20 minutes,” Mr Martinson said.
“I know we got a pretty good hammering from the Premier of Victoria … but we’re still Australians and we need to stick together.”