The Victoria/South Australia border has once again slammed shut, despite the state recording no new cases of coronavirus overnight.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced today that the state would be imposing a hard border with South Australia from 11.59pm tonight.
Under this new border closure, only people with medical or emergency reasons, freight drivers, people needing help with urgent animal welfare or as authorised by law will be able to cross the border.
Mr Andrews said Victorians had worked too hard and given too much to allow anything to put at risk the goal of reaching COVID normal by Christmas.
"We'll do whatever it takes to keep Victorians safe," he said.
"We know border communities have had an incredibly difficult year - and we don't take these decisions lightly. Our public health team will work closely with South Australia to monitor the outbreak and get the border back open as soon as it's safe to do so."
Victorian Minister for Health Martin Foley said they are asking all locals and visitors in Portland and Benalla with any symptoms at all to please come forward and get tested today.
"We'll work with these communities to ensure they have access to the things they need, as we provide further details on border crossings in the coming days," he said.
A release from Mr Andrews said the move comes after traces of the virus that causes coronavirus were detected in untreated wastewater taken from Portland and Benalla wastewater treatment plants on Tuesday.
"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," the release said.
"Residents of Portland and Benalla and anyone who has visited between November 15 and 17 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."
Effective from 11.59pm tonight, a 'hard border' will be in place for 48 hours before a permit system comes into effect from 11:59pm on Saturday, November 21.
The final details of the permit scheme will be provided as soon as possible but the reasons to enter Victoria from South Australia from Saturday night will include:
- if you are an emergency services worker or a worker providing essential services
- for agricultural work,
- to receive medical care (including seeking coronavirus testing)
- obtain medical supplies
- compassionate reasons to shop to obtain essential supplies
The release said Regional Development Victoria will meet with local councils today to determine any resourcing needs for border communities in Victoria while the border controls are in place.
"The Government will work with councils on what measures are necessary to ensure their communities continue to have access to food, fuel, pharmaceuticals and medical services,' it said.
"From today, interstate truck drivers travelling through Victoria from South Australia will be offered extra testing at a site at Nhill on the Western Highway.
"Other testing sites are being activated at other major freight routes. Drivers can also be tested at more than 193 other sites across Victoria.
"We're working with major freight companies, independent operators and industry peak bodies to provide advice about the need for testing and all tested will have their samples fast-tracked for analysis. The Victorian Government will continue to monitor the SA outbreak and take whatever action is necessary to keep Victorians safe.
"Our Victorian Public Health team is also supporting SA contact tracers as they continue to track and trace the spread of the virus."