Exemptions behind NSW border delays


Scott Morrison says he has offered the Victorian government help to get residents stranded in NSW home.

The Prime Minister spoke with Premier Daniel Andrews about the border issue on Monday night.

The development follows revelations that Victoria’s health department has assessed just 175 of 2295 exemption applications for people to enter the state for compassionate or medical reasons.

Queues of cars remain stranded at the border after the Victorian government deemed the whole of NSW a virus red zone and slammed the border shut to the state over New Year’s.

“Those issues, they are matters for them, and so (I was) happy to talk to the premier about that and provide what support we can to see if we can get a better pathway home for Victorians as soon as possible,” Mr Morrison told 3AW on Tuesday.

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He said NSW wastewater testing had shown no positive results for COVID-19 outside of metropolitan Sydney and Wollongong, which was similar to Victoria’s situation.

Mr Morrison said it would be great to see the border restrictions eased soon given the “success” being had in both NSW and in Victoria.

“The federal government has no power over states when it comes to their public health orders for this nature,” he said.

“State governments have to be transparent and explain those decisions. They have to weigh up the risks, together with the costs and the impact and the disruption.”

In a statement, the Department of Health and Human Services said it had worked through 175 exemptions on Sunday.

“In all cases, those applying have provided evidence of negative COVID-19 tests. More staff are being deployed to speed up this process,” it said.

People travelling across must then get a COVID-19 test within 24 hours of coming into Victoria.

Acting Premier Jacinta Allan said there was “priority” to get people across who had medical needs and other emergencies, with other situations assessed “case-by-case”.

“We’d encourage Victorians to apply for consideration,” she said on Monday.

“For residents who live in the established border bubble they can come in, there’s no limit on them being able to return.”

She said the state government was “having a look” at cases where families were trying to get across the border in time for school.

“But any decision based on anyone coming back from NSW will only be granted an exemption based on the health advice and their movements at the time,” she said.

Federal Maribyrnong MP Bill Shorten said one of his constituents was stuck on the NSW south coast with her husband, their disabled child and another with special needs.

“(It is) far better to have this child, 11 year old, looked after at home rather than being stuck in the south coast,” Mr Shorten told Today.

“We need now the administrative follow up to help make sure that people are not stranded in some really tough circumstances like the lady I’m talking about.”

Victoria recorded four new cases of coronavirus on Monday – one remains in hotel quarantine and three were locally acquired and linked to the Black Rock restaurant cluster.

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