Australia

Long lines and website hiccups as the NSW-Victorian border closure comes into force

Cars entering NSW along the Albury-Wodonga border. Source: Amelia Dunn/SBS News

Service NSW has apologised after the website allowing people to apply for permits to cross the NSW-Victoria border crashed hours before the closure came into effect.

Hours after the border between the country's two most populous states was closed for the first time in 100 years, queues of travellers are facing a long wait as they attempt to cross into New South Wales.

As of midnight on Tuesday, only NSW residents, people with an exception or those who live within 50 kilometres of the NSW-Victoria border are allowed to enter the state, after an outbreak of cases in Melbourne forced a second stage 3 lockdown.

NSW residents returning from Victoria will also be subject to a 14-day quarantine period.

Long lines of cars and trucks at the border stretched up to four kilometres long overnight, with NSW Police turning back a handful of people travelling from Melbourne's coronavirus hotspots.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller told 2GB on Wednesday that day one of the operation was going "extremely well", adding that 44,000 people had successfully applied for travel permits. 

"We've seen tens of thousands of people cross the border and there's been a handful of cars that have been stopped and turned around because they didn't meet the criteria," he said.

On the Albury-Wodonga border, most people appeared to be showing their licence to cross into NSW, meaning they were likely local residents. 

More than 600 NSW Police officers were deployed to the border, alongside 500 defence personnel who will assist at 55 different border crossings.

The closure came into force the same day Victoria recorded 191 new coronavirus cases, the highest daily tally since the beginning of the pandemic. 

On Wednesday, another 134 new cases were confirmed.

Border permit website glitches

Hours before the border closure came into effect, the Service NSW site allowing people to apply for travel permits crashed shortly after it was launched at 7.30pm on Tuesday due to "high levels of demand".

In a statement on Tuesday night, an NSW Service spokesperson apologised for the delays in securing a permit.

"In the interim, travellers will be able to demonstrate their eligibility to cross the border to police by carrying relevant documentation based on a category of exemption," they said.

The system appeared to be back up and running before midnight, when the border officially shut.

There are a number of categories of people that are eligible for an exemption to cross the border with a permit, including seasonal workers, boarding school or university students, a carer for someone entering NSW, or people who provide critical services, such as health care or freight and logistics. 

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

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