'Stuck for hours': New Year's border chaos as Covid deadline looms

Huge queues reportedly up to five kilometres long are hampering people’s efforts making an eleventh-hour dash to return to Victoria before it closes its border with NSW, a move to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Victoria’s Acting Premier Jacinta Allan announced on Thursday afternoon the state would be reinstating its hard border with NSW from 11.59pm on New Year’s Day as two more Covid-19 local cases were confirmed.

As the deadline looms, people shared photos of the long lines to get into Victoria from the NSW border town of Mulwala on Thursday following the announcement.

Two photos of cars lined up to cross the border into Victoria from Mulwala in NSW.
The queue to get into Victoria from the NSW border town of Mulwala. Source: Andrew Bourchier/Twitter and Zane Foott/Twitter

In a tweet just after 10pm (AEDT) on Thursday, Andrew Bourchier said the queue was five kilometres long.

“Our holiday parks will be empty by midnight. A long drive ahead for many of these families to return to their homes. Photos taken in Mulwala and the traffic heading south into Victoria,” he wrote.

Twitter user Zane Foott shared another photo of cars bumper-to-bumper at the border crossing.

“We’re 3.5kms off the border at Mulwala,” he said.

A third person posted a video of the “KMs long” queue of cars and caravans “waiting to cross the bridge into Yarrawonga [in Victoria]”.

“One driver said they had already been in the queue for 1 hr 15,” they said.

“Prob[ably] another hour and a half for them to cross.”

At another border crossing, one person said children had been “stuck in cars for hours”.

“Please speed up the checks,” they appealed to Ms Allan.

In a later tweet they added: “This is the Princes Highway border, we were given a very short notice and the checks are so slow, currently, cars are moving 100m in an hour, its 1500 cars stuck at least, only 2 people doing the permit checks.”

Another person claimed they had been “sitting in a queue to cross the border for 4 hours with 5km still to go until we get to the checkpoint”.

But others say it was smooth sailing at the Albury-Wodonga crossing.

“I’ve just come across the border at Albury and it took 10 minutes,” one Twitter responded to the above complaint.

“Anyone trying to cross Albury NSW-VIC border go through Lincoln Causeway, no line and across in a minute,” another traveller said at 10.42pm on Friday.

Masks mandatory indoors in Victoria

Anyone who arrives back in Victoria from anywhere in NSW after 11.59pm on New Year’s Day will have to go into isolation for 14 days.

“This is going to cause some disruption for Victorians who may be holidaying,” Ms Allan said, apologising for the disruption.

“However these difficult decisions are about protecting the community, protecting and keeping case numbers low and doing everything we can to lock in the gains we have made over the course of 2020.”

Masks will be mandatory indoors from 5pm on Thursday and the number of visitors allowed in Victorian homes is down to 15 from 30 under changes announced by Ms Allan earlier in the day.

The two additional cases identified on Thursday afternoon are close contacts of the six previously announced.

The new cases, which first emerged on Wednesday night, ended a 60-day streak without infections for Victoria.

It’s believed all six cases - including two women in their 40s and a woman in her 70s - are tied to outbreaks of the virus in Sydney.

NSW recorded 10 new locally acquired cases on Thursday.

– with AAP

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