The freight industry has warned of chaos on the border after NSW introduced tough new restrictions for freight drivers entering from Victoria due to the state being “on a knife’s edge”.
Transport for NSW shocked the freight industry late on Tuesday by announcing it will require truck drivers crossing the border from Victoria to have a COVID-19 test every seven days even they do not show any symptoms.
The new rule, which South Australia is now also enforcing, now applies to some 15,000 trucks crossing the borders every day and industry groups have declared it “unworkable” and warned it will disrupt supply chains.
Freight drivers entering NSW previously only needed a COVID-safety plan and a permit, which exempted them from quarantine restrictions.
However, the strict new testing requirements will apply to anyone who has been in Victoria within the past 14 days.
“That means that any worker crossing the border from Victoria to NSW should have had a COVID-19 test within the past seven days,” Transport for NSW executive director of freight, Susie Mackay, said in an industry alert.
“I acknowledge these additional requirements may be difficult for some operators but I can’t stress enough just how important it is that we all do our bit to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
The Victorian Transport Association said the new requirement contradicted Victorian health orders that require testing only if someone feels unwell or shows symptoms and it was seeking urgent “workable” changes.
“While the transport and freight industry has been softly affected in border crossings, there are now new restrictions that will create enormous issues and stress for individual companies that need to service customers in other states,” VTA chief executive Peter Anderson said.
Drivers able to get a COVID-19 test every seven days would also have to quarantine for some three to five days due to delays in test results, he said.
Victorian Liberal spokeswoman for ports and freight Roma Britnell said transport companies were being turned back at the border on Wednesday, stopping the movement of food, fuel and mail into the state.
“The SA Government’s directive will have no guaranteed impact on health outcomes in that state because the incubation period of the virus ranges from 1 – 14 days,” she said.
“All it will do is risk a break in the supply chain and leave shelves empty on that side of the border, which could lead to panic buying.”
NSW started enforcing the restrictions as it reported 17 local transmissions, with three linked to the inner-east suburb of Potts Point.
The state has managed to keep its local transmissions below 20 since new cases started emerging three weeks ago.
Nevertheless, Dr McAnulty warned “we are at a knife’s edge, a very critical point in the cases”.
“The good news is that we are able to link them all together. [This means] we can understand the transmission dynamics and the people at risk.”
Two new cases are associated with the Thai Rock restaurant at Potts Point and one new case is a staff member at the Apollo restaurant in the area.
Former Bluescope chief executive Noel Cornish and his partner were revealed on Tuesday as having tested positive to coronavirus after eating at both restaurants and health authorities believe the couple are the link between the two outbreaks.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian also announced that from Friday midnight all gyms will have to have a permanent ‘COVID marshall’ in place at all times to monitor social distancing and cleaning, even 24-hour centres.
NSW deputy chief medical officer Jeremy McAnulty said gyms were high-risk venues because people are in close proximity with others indoors and can reuse machines that may not be cleaned.
The biggest outbreak remains the Thai Rock restaurant in Wetherill Park, which has 85 cases linked to it, while
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