Queues at the NSW border with Victoria were up to four kilometres long overnight and NSW police had to turn back people travelling from Melbourne’s coronavirus hotspot suburbs.
Travellers from Victoria are facing waits of up to 40 minutes while police check their identification and entry permits after the border between the two states closed at midnight on Tuesday.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller told ABC radio some people had travelled from hotspot postcodes in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, where communities are preparing for a six-week lockdown from midnight on Wednesday.
The NSW-Victoria border was closed in response to an escalation in new coronavirus cases in the southern state, after a record 191 infections on Tuesday.
There are exemptions in place for essential crossings, including medical care.
This is the queue to get across the border from Wodonga into Albury – as NSW police stop each car and check for permits and ID pic.twitter.com/9sQCsB2UMC
— Trudy McIntosh (@TrudyMcIntosh) July 7, 2020
But the mayors of the main border towns of Albury and Wodonga want more detail and are calling for exemption permits for people living up to 100km out from the towns and which rely on them for essential services.
As more than 600 officers were deployed to police the border, Mr Fuller said the closure was intended to protect NSW from another outbreak of coronavirus.
Up to 500 defence personnel are also being deployed to help man checkpoints at 55 border crossings.
Albury mayor Kevin Mack said he had spoken to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian about the closures but wanted more information.
People applying online for permits to cross from Victoria into NSW faced delays after the Services NSW web page stopped working, but the system was restored just before the border was shut.
A Service NSW spokesperson said the permit application system had experienced high levels of demand.
“We are aware that some people have experienced delays in securing a permit and we apologise for the delay,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“In the interim, travellers will be able to demonstrate their eligibility to cross the border to police by carrying relevant documentation.”
BORDER SHUTS: a long queue has already formed with people trying to get into NSW via Albury. Many are frustrated locals wanting to get to work. All cars are being diverted through here off the Hume. Expect huge delays #7newsmelb @sunriseon7 #alburywodonga pic.twitter.com/d6tdDrFeTH
— Teegan Dolling (@tdolling) July 7, 2020
NSW reported seven new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday from 9746 tests, including a man who tested negative in hotel quarantine before returning home to Newcastle on Sunday and developing respiratory symptoms.
He and his close contacts have been placed in isolation, while Tuesday’s other six cases were travellers in hotel quarantine.
Health officials also confirmed on Tuesday that two people who tested positive for coronavirus in Albury were both from the same family.
Victorian residents who seek to enter NSW without a valid excuse could face up to six months in prison or an $11,000 fine.
NSW residents returning from Victoria must self-isolate at home for 14 days.
“Police will be given that information and we’ll knock on doors to make sure people are isolating – that was the strategy we used before the hotel lockdown came into place through the federal government,” Mr Fuller told the ABC.
The stage-three lockdown in Melbourne only allows residents to leave only for food and supplies, care provision, exercise and study or work.