Published by The Border Watch
By Todd Lewis
THE looming reopening of unimpeded travel between South Australia and Victoria has been scrapped indefinitely in light of recent COVID-19 outbreaks in Melbourne, leaving cross-border communities in limbo.
Premier Steven Marshall yesterday announced the July 20 date - initially set for reopening the border - would be shelved on advice from the state’s transition committee.
The State Government indicated re-opening the borders would pose a threat to public health given the current situation in Victoria, where 64 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded yesterday.
While supportive of the decision, Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell reignited his push for a regional travel bubble in parliament yesterday.
“This bubble would be defined by postcode and within a 100km radius of the SA border and would include those with a Victorian postcode starting with 33,” Mr Bell said.
“The concept would involve a statutory declaration that anyone within the post starting with 33 would be able to travel over to SA.
“Whilst we must remain cautious, we cannot continue to place restrictions on our community.”
Praising the Limestone Coast and western Victoria communities for their ability to “stop the spread”, Mr Bell said the bubble would boost both regional economies.
“Residents of the Limestone Coast and western Victoria are to be congratulated for taking the necessary precautions over the last three months, which has seen extremely low numbers of positive COVID-19 cases in these regions,” Mr Bell said.
“The question is do we continue to hold back the economic recovery of our regional areas?
“Let us be optimistically positive and give our community a much-needed boost and start having a cross-border discussion to make a travel bubble a reliability for our regional communities.”
Mount Gambier resident Caroline Dwyer, who remains eager to visit her new baby niece in Melbourne, backed yesterday’s decision to keep the SA-Vic border control measures in place.
“I was counting down the days that I could go see my baby niece who was born in May, but I was relieved by the decision because I really do not want the virus back here.”
“My family are right in the thick of it in Sunshine West, so it is just not worth it at this stage.”
Communicating with her family via phone, Ms Dwyer said she had gained some insight into how real the situation currently was in Melbourne and greater surrounds.
“My sister has essentially gone into lock down and there is door to door stuff happening there with a large amount of testing going on,” she said.
“It sounds like they are going to lock down the suburbs affected and hopefully that will actually get a handle on it.”
She said her family has endured a tough period as a result of the pandemic, revealing her grandmother died while strict COVID-19 restrictions were in place.
“Her funeral was live-streamed on Facebook and it was just awful - I do not want anybody else to have to go through that, so the last thing we want is it to be locked down again,” she said.
“We are sort of back to a normal life and I do not want to lose that again, I feel like it was awful when it got taken away and I do not think anyone wants to go back there.”
Labor parliamentarian Clare Scriven said opening up the border with Victoria was a risk that most South Australians do not want to take.
“So many South Australian families have suffered as a result of COVID-19, the last thing we want to see is the state go backwards as a result of a pre-emptive opening with Victoria,” Ms Scriven said.
“Steven Marshall needs to focus on South Australian businesses being able to open up, which is even more important while the borders are shut.”
New South Wales and ACT residents were also set to be welcomed back to South Australia on July 20, however Mr Marshall indicated relaxation of border restrictions with those jurisdictions could happen sooner.
It comes as visitors who plan to enter South Australia can now complete an online pre-approval form, which launched today.
Those who have completed the form and have been granted pre-approval will receive a return email with the results and a unique reference number which will need to be presented to the border patrol on arrival.
Anyone who already has essential traveller status under the crossborder community member category and whose circumstance has not changed does not need to complete the cross border preapproval form.
If you have an essential traveller status other than the cross-border community member category, you will need to apply online.
The form can be accessed via sa.gov.au or the SA Police website and it is anticipated that applicants will receive a response to their application within 72 hours.