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Border-crossing truck drivers caught in catch 22 situation over COVID-19 testing

ABC Health logo ABC Health 31/07/2020 By Matt Neal and Gavin McGrath
a fire truck is parked on the side of a road: COVID-19 testing requirements vary between Victorian and South Australian borders. (ABC Goldfields: Jarrod Lucas) © Provided by ABC Health COVID-19 testing requirements vary between Victorian and South Australian borders. (ABC Goldfields: Jarrod Lucas)

Victorian truck drivers are caught in a catch-22 situation over South Australian border-crossing restrictions.

The SA Government requires truckies to show proof they have had a negative coronavirus test in the seven days prior to driving across the Victoria-South Australia border.

But Victorian Transport Association CEO Peter Anderson said getting tests in Victoria is predominantly restricted to people with COVID-19 symptoms.

"The issue that we have as an industry is not the impediment that it might put into the daily lives and the cost to the individual companies to try and organise all their drivers to be tested regularly," Mr Anderson said.

"It's really the fact that there's a contradiction in the two laws between the states.

"There's asymptomatic testing in South Australia — you're allowed to go and get tested any time you like.

"But in Victoria, you're only meant to be tested if you have symptoms, and you are then required to go and isolate for three to five days until you get the results."

Asymptomatic testing is only available in hotspot areas like Colac — a town in south-west Victoria where an outbreak stemming from a meatworks has infected at least 64 people.

Some trucking companies have expressed concern about sending truck drivers into hotspots like Colac for regular COVID-19 tests.

Mr Anderson said that in the day after the restriction was introduced he spoke to about 70 people in the industry who were concerned.

"The reaction has been huge," he said.

"It's all about trying to protect people from the disease — we understand that."

Mr Anderson said the freight and transport industry had already introduced pandemic measures including permits, safety plans, and asking drivers to keep a record of any contacts they have had over the previous 28 days.

He said truckies were also following a "straight there, straight back" policy.

"It's do your job and get back to Victoria," Mr Anderson said.

He said truckies were already doing it tough.

"We had a member the other day had a truck break down interstate and when he gave the repair people his registration number, they said: 'Oh, you're from Victoria, no, we won't go near your truck'," Mr Anderson said.

"It meant that he had to go through a lot of work to try to repair that truck and get it back on the route."

He said getting weekly tests for every cross-border truckie in Victoria would also put pressure on a system already trying to process more than 20,000 tests a day.

The Victorian Health Department was asked whether regular asymptomatic testing would be made available to cross-border truck drivers, but did not respond.

The South Australian Government is standing by its restrictions, while Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said yesterday in a statement that "State and Territory Governments remain responsible for the operation of domestic border controls".

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