Cross-border COVID concern

Friday August 14, 2020

Published by The Border Watch

Bordering Victorian residents fear health risk as strict directions to be enforced

CROSS-BORDER community members are frightened tougher travel restrictions will increase the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 as the new directions will force individuals who would otherwise travel to South Australia to enter regional Victorian hotspots.

On Wednesday, Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said as of August 21, Victorians living within a 40km radius of the border would no longer be able to enter South Australia for education, shopping or to receive medical care.

Individuals will need to complete the online pre-approval form at least 72 hours before their proposed arrival to South Australia under existing essential traveller rules.

But the uncertainty of who will be able to enter South Australian under the new direction has raised serious concerns with cross-border community members, with Nelson Kiosk owner Paul Singleton saying residents who were ineligible for essential traveller status would be forced to go to Portland for supplies.

According to Portland District Health, the seaside town recorded two additional positive cases on Thursday bringing the total to seven active cases.

“I would rather be in Melbourne under stage four restrictions, because I would be able to get everything I need within a 5km radius rather than be in regional Victoria on stage three restrictions and go to Portland for supplies,” Mr Singleton said.

“It is not a viable alternative to send us to Portland where they have active cases.

“We have an ageing population in Nelson and to force people to go to Portland to do what they normally do in Mount Gambier is a huge risk and would totally decimate our town.

“I can understand why people in South Australia are worried, but we are 3km from the border and we have been doing the right thing.”

Dartmoor General Store owner Kym McLean - who relies heavily on services in Mount Gambier - also raised concerns about stronger border restrictions.

“We have developed a relationship with suppliers in Mount Gambier and if we are not able to access them it is a concern because we will not have the product and neither will the community,” he said.

“It is also a concern having to go further into Victoria where there are active cases.

“We will put ourselves at risk of catching the virus and increases the potential to spread it here.”

Liberal Member for South West Coast Roma Britnell said the decision by her South Australian counterparts was a step too far and was working with Labor Minister Jaclyn Symes to seek clarity on the latest changes.

“It is still all very unclear and is creating a state of confusion for our cross-border communities,” she said.

“People who live in Nelson are reliant on Mount Gambier and Mount Gambier is reliant on them they are people who provide services to that community and who contribute to its economy.

“To ban them from going to work, doing the groceries or buying fuel because they live on the wrong side of a map is a step too far.”

Mount Gambier MP Troy Bell said he had spoken to Premier Steven Marshall about rationale behind the new restrictions and was advised the state’s transition committee was seriously concerned about the risk of transmission.

Mr Bell acknowledged the frustration of cross-border community members about the recent round of changes, but said the decisions had been made at the highest level and were designed to protect South Australians.

“Over four months now, our community has had to endure constant disruption to daily lives because of our proximity to the border,” he said.

“As quickly as restrictions come into effect, they can also be relaxed and if Victoria is able to get on top of their situation, these may be short-term.”

Member for MacKillop Nick McBride said he had asked Premier Marshall whether a border pass could be established for crossborder community members.

“Premier Marshall advised me the only leniency he could give to cross-border community members was to give them a week of notice to make as many preparations as possible,” he said.

“If people have the opportunity and find life will be too untenable living in Victoria, they should consider relocating to South Australia whether that be with family members or in a second house.

“I have great sympathy for the crossborder community and the pains they are going through, but I also fully appreciate the strong position South Australia is in because of the health experts and SA Police.”