Vic standing firm on NSW border exemptions

Victoria’s tough border policy will stand despite thousands of its residents languishing in NSW limbo.

There were 2798 exemption applications by Tuesday, as the state reported three new locally acquired cases linked to the 27-strong Black Rock cluster.

Just 57 exemptions have been granted to date, with another 153 emergency workers or people requiring urgent medical care advised they need not apply.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the plight of stranded Victorians was among the issues he discussed with Premier Daniel Andrews on Monday night.

He says the federal government is willing to provide support for a pathway to get Victorians home.

But Police Minister Lisa Neville says there will be no change to the exemption policy.

“There is a tough exemption process to pick up those who are facing the hardest hardship,” she said.

“But otherwise we’ve had to make this decision to protect what we’ve all built together. We don’t want to go backwards.”

Former federal Labor leader Bill Shorten said the system didn’t seem to be working as it should, after the mother of an 11-year-old with a disability contacted him for help to expedite the family’s return from the NSW south coast.

Additional DHHS staff are now responding to the deluge of applications, but Ms Neville was unable to give a timeline for clearing the backlog.

Victoria Police have turned away 1532 motorists trying to cross the border, issuing 1232 warnings and 50 fines.

Assistant Commissioner Rick Nugent said fines were given out for “checkpoint shopping” and misleading permit applications.

One couple claimed they’d been to a closed local restaurant across the border, but police found a northern Sydney takeaway receipt in their car, he said.

“They’d just driven directly from there and tried to enter into Victoria,” he said.

For the second day in a row 32,000 people turned out for testing in Victoria on Monday, from which three locally acquired cases were confirmed plus a returned traveller in hotel quarantine.

Victorian testing commander Jeroen Weimar said 27 local active cases were all linked to the Black Rock cluste. They come  from 14 households and includes 12 people who were at the Buffalo Smile Thai restaurant at the centre of the cluster.

“At this point in time, we have only seen transmission at the Black Rock cafe or in family settings or household settings through parties and various things,” he said.

“We have not seen any transmission at the other exposure sites.”

But regardless, he said it was important to quickly identify those exposure sites and have people isolate to ensure the outbreak is contained.

He defended delays in notifying some venues about exposure, saying the bush telegraph has worked effectively where it sometimes isn’t immediately obvious who to contact at a business.

“We don’t have time to burn to let the public know what’s going on – particularly when in many cases we have an active community already sending messages out through their own channels,” he said.

Dozens of exposure sites have now been listed, with the biggest concern around a Sikh temple in Keysborough, where a community meeting will be held on Tuesday night, and a cafe at the IKEA store in Springvale.

More than 900 primary contacts and 400 secondary contacts of the Black Rock cluster are currently isolating.

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