VicPol says it'll be checking on unnecessary movements

Traveller's documentation may be checked, as state hits 288 coronavirus cases

Coronavirus
BRIDGE CLOSURES: Transport for NSW has moved to clarify permit conditions for truck operators, while many bridges across the Murray River remain closed. This bridge, at Tooleybuc, has since been reopened.

BRIDGE CLOSURES: Transport for NSW has moved to clarify permit conditions for truck operators, while many bridges across the Murray River remain closed. This bridge, at Tooleybuc, has since been reopened.

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VicPol says it'll be carrying out random driver checks as COVID-19 again spikes.

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Victoria Police have warned they may require documentation for people travelling in, and out, of the Melbourne and Mitchell Shire Council lockdown areas.

Victoria has recorded 288 cases of coronavirus, the highest number in a single day, in any Australian state or territory, since the pandemic began.

Of the cases, 26 are linked to known outbreaks and 262 are under investigation.

Stage Three "Stay at Home" restrictions are now in force across metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire for six weeks.

"These restrictions have become necessary because of the sharp increase in cases," Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said.

"If you live in these areas, there'll be only four reasons to leave your home: shopping for food and essential items; care and caregiving; daily exercise; and work and study, if you can't do it from home.

"This Stay at Home direction will apply to your principal place of residence - which means you need to stay home and not use a holiday home."

A Victoria Police spokesman said there would be no permit system for agricultural workers, primary producers or consultants.

"In support of the vehicle checkpoints in place across nine major arterial roads in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, police will also be intercepting vehicles at random to ensure they are complying with the Chief Health Officer's directions,' the spokesman said.

"Police will ask a multitude of questions to confirm the reason for travel before determining whether any infringement is issued.

"This may include asking the person whether they have any documentation to support their reasoning for travel."

But the VicPol spokesman said common sense would prevail; if someone was travelling for work, they wouldn't be fined.

Victorian Farmers Federation president, David Jochinke said the organisation supported the most efficient and effective transport method of both agricultural produce and people to ensure essential supply chains throughout Victoria and interstate continued and were not interrupted.

"Keeping our industry moving and the supply chains open is imperative and they must operate as normal," Mr Jochinke said.

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Rob Richardson, who lives in Nagambie, but runs Seymour Ag Supplies store, said he had not seen any checkpoints, but hoped the identification he was carrying would suffice.

"I have a business card, that shows that I work in Seymour, and a licence, that shows I live in Nagambie," Mr Richardson said.

He said one of the biggest issues was not being able to run farmers' meetings, to talk about issues such as bloat, or weed control.

When the first lockdown took place, he said he had been issued with a letter from the federal Department of Agriculture.

"This time there has been nothing since - it's been 'shut the gate', " Mr Richardson said.

"The gate should have been shut between here and Broadford, or Wallan."

Store manager and agronomist Emma Henne said she lived in Whittlesea.

She said she had seen more police, on the Hume Freeway, but hadn't been pulled over.

It was fortunate that it was a quieter part of the year, so, for her, there wasn't the pressure to get out on to farms.

The store had closed its front door and was following strict coronavirus protocols and procedures.

On the Western Freeway, delays of up to half an hour were being reported at a checkpoint, at Bacchus Marsh.

CHECK POINTS: Traffic, heading to Ballarat, was stopped at a checkpoint at Bacchus Marsh. Picture by Andrew Whitelaw, TEM.

CHECK POINTS: Traffic, heading to Ballarat, was stopped at a checkpoint at Bacchus Marsh. Picture by Andrew Whitelaw, TEM.

Meanwhile, Transport for NSW has clarified the permit system for Victorian freight and livestock drivers, travelling into NSW.

The NSW government has introduced a permit system, to help contain the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and jobs of NSW

The Public Health (COVID-19 NSW and Victorian Border) Order 2020 states that from 12.01 am Wednesday no one can enter NSW from Victoria unless they can meet exemption criteria.

NSW residents visiting Victoria will need to apply for a permit and may be required to self-isolate if they have visited a COVID-19 hotspot.

Transport for NSW said it had eased restrictions, to ensure certainty around operations for the freight industry and to keep the supply chain flowing through the temporary closure.

"After reviewing the criteria for critical services permits, NSW will be creating an additional permit, to better support critical workers in the freight and transport sector and to clarify terms and conditions," a Transport for NSW spokesman said.

"This permit will allow people within the freight and transport industry to be able to travel between NSW and Victoria for the purpose of their duties, providing their employer has a COVID-19 Safety Plan and will not require them to self-isolate."

COVID-Safe plans and guidelines to assist the industry are also available to align with this additional permit at nsw.gov.au/covid/covid-safe-businesses.

Freight and transport workers will still require the current critical services permit to enter NSW, but will not be held to account for any form of self-isolation.

"Consistent with the need to prepare a COVID-19 Safety Plan, Transport for NSW is asking freight operators to be conscious of the significantly increased health risk in Victoria, to please take extra care and ensure that you are vigilant in practising physical distancing, minimising contact and maintaining good hygiene practices to limit the spread of the Coronavirus," the spokesman said.

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Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Victoria president John Beer said he had been to Finley, NSW, and was waved straight through the checkpoint.

He said he had not heard of any issues, from any of his members.

Mr Beer said there would be significant livestock movements out of Victoria and into NSW, to feedlots and for restocking.

But he said he was concerned about constant changes, to the permit system and the provision for visitors to NSW to have to self-isolate for 14 days.

"The hard part is filling the form in, they want to know where you're staying, and if you are not staying anywhere, it doesn't let you go any further," Mr Beer said.

"So you have to put your first drop-off point, you can't do anything, because you aren't staying so they want your first drop off."

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NSW police chief says Victorian border restrictions will exist for a minimum of six weeks

And the Freight on Rail Group (FORG) of Australia Chair Dean Dalla Valle has congratulated the NSW government for delivering sensible and streamlined rules for movement of essential freight train crews and services across the Victorian-NSW border.

Mr Dalla Vale said the government had been outstanding in its support of the sector during this challenging event, including recognising the need for NSW regional train crews to occasionally cross the border in cars into Victoria to reach intermodal container or bulk grain rail services.

"In another scenario, after a delivery run, a freight train driver may have to cross the border by car to get back home because a return (back load) rail service has been cancelled or delayed by network constraints,' Mr Dalla Valle said..

"Rail maintenance workers, terminal staff and safety compliance officers also need to regularly cross the Victorian-NSW border in cars to service and supervise essential freight train operations.

"The Regional Transport and Roads Minister Paul Toole, and his key agency staff, immediately understood and appreciated these nuanced, daily practical requirements of our sector.

"From day one of the lockdown he strongly advocated within government for freight to flow freely across the Victorian-NSW border."

Mr Dalla Valle said the minister also understood the logistical difficulty of forcing hundreds of train crews to self-isolate for 14-days each time they crossed the border on a freight delivery run

."What has become crystal clear during the COVID-19 pandemic is the innate power of rail in being able to transport bulk volumes of freight over large distances and state borders in a safe and efficient manner," Mr Dalla Valle said.

"For example, a typical interstate goods train up to 1,500 metres in length can haul approximately 220 shipping containers, helping to significantly reduce the number of truck, and people, movements across state borders."

"Each day and night, train crew members clock onto their shifts after practicing strict hygiene and social distancing procedures."

Rail freight had the added benefit of operating within railway corridors and depots prohibited to the public.

Rail freight operators had COVID-19 safety plans in place from the start of the pandemic in Australia.

There's also a tougher regime, in place for Victorian arrivals into Western Australia.

South Australia had also hardened its borders.

Mr Beer said that wasn't likely to affect LRTAV members, as there were few sheep numbers coming out of the west, at the moment.

WA further tightened its borders on Friday.

No one is allowed into WA, if they have been in Victoria in the previous 14 days, unless they meet the new exemption list or would normally reside in Western Australia.

Returning WA residents will continue to be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Transport and freight workers are permitted to enter WA.

Anyone who is permitted to enter WA who has been in Victoria for the previous 14 days will be served with a notice on arrival.

The notice will compel them to take a COVID-19 test on day 11 of their time in Western Australia or at any point when symptoms develop.

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