Victoria’s announcement that freight and transport operators travelling from a declared “red zone”, which currently includes New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, are required to have a COVID-19 test every 72 hours (3 days) in order to be allowed to cross the NSW/VIC border will cause frustration for drivers due to limited access to suitable COVID-19 testing sites.
NatRoad supports the introduction of testing regimes in light of the more virulent variants of COVID-19 now circulating in Australia, but it is extremely important that all state governments step up and provide “truck friendly” COVID-19 testing sites on key transport routes in metropolitan, urban and regional locations.
The current spread of the Delta variant of the virus has seen immediate responses in border closures and significant changes in mandatory COVID-19 testing. In the last few days, we have seen both New South Wales and Victoria mandate a revolving 72-hour testing regime for many Australians working in essential services.
The impact of these decisions has been shown in all media reports. We have seen the lengthy queues of people lining up at testing facilities, sometimes for 5 to 6 hours. NatRoad supports a higher frequency of testing for essential workers. But with these increased testing requirements for governments must recognise the need to provide suitable facilities to enable people to meet the obligations imposed on them.
Unfortunately, the industry that all Australians have depended on to keep food and other necessities on shop shelves is treated as a second thought. Many decisions made in the interests of preventing transmission of the virus have significantly impacted the road transport industry from an operational and a cost perspective. Many heavy vehicle drivers have submitted to the highly invasive nasal swab test on a weekly basis. However, the lack of truck friendly testing sites has been a problem for drivers.
In the midst of Victoria moving into its fifth lockdown, there was a refreshing move today. Key Victorian government representatives met with industry representatives and operators to provide an update of changes to requirements for freight operators entering Victoria from NSW red zones, with key representatives from New South Wales also in attendance. This sets a good standard for further inclusive engagement with the industry and better channels of communication.
In addition to the COVID-9 testing requirements, permit holders from red zones must carry evidence (e.g. a letter) from their employers confirming their work is urgent, essential, and cannot be carried out by workers sourced from Victoria or a green zone jurisdiction. A template for members to use can be accessed here.
NatRoad continues to call for 24 hour “truck friendly’ testing sites on key transport routes in metropolitan, urban and regional locations, in all states and territories so that drivers can continue their work with the confidence that they are not transmitters and even more importantly that they are not putting their families and the community at risk.