Victoria introduces ‘traffic light’ permit system for domestic travel

Traffic Light showing green in downtown Melbourne, Australia

Victoria has established a new permit system for all domestic travel into the state, in an attempt to support COVID-19 contact tracing efforts and give Aussies greater certainty when they travel.

It will be based on a traffic light system that allows Victoria to designate regions in other parts of Australia as green, orange or red, depending on the coronavirus risk in a particular area.

Zones will be declared by the state’s Chief Health Officer, based on the public health risk for coronavirus transmission, and mean that certain restrictions will apply for travellers from that area.

The new permit system went live last night. Current permits – including transit and worker permits – will remain valid, so long as they are consistent with public health’s advice on zones.

Under the new system, travellers will need to apply for a permit to enter Victoria from anywhere in Australia, except border communities in NSW, where locals will require proof of their home address.

The type of permit granted to travellers will depend on where they have been, with applicants required to provide details on where they are coming from and where they are travelling to.

A red zone means if a traveller has visited this area in the past 14 days, they will not be allowed to enter Victoria without an exception or exemption. If they try to enter Victoria at a land border, they will be turned away.

Returned Victorian travellers arriving by plane or by water without a valid reason or exemption will be required to self-isolate at home for 14 days and will receive a fine of $4,957.

Interstate residents presenting at an airport or seaport without a valid reason or exemption will be fined $4,957 and returned to their destination on the next available flight. If this requires an overnight stay, these individuals will need to stay in hotel quarantine until their departure.

An orange zone means that travellers will be able to apply for a permit and will need to take a coronavirus test within 72 hours after arriving in Victoria, isolating both before and after their test, until they receive a negative result.

A green zone means travellers will be able to apply for a permit and enter Victoria. Once in Victoria, the state government said they should watch for symptoms and get tested should they feel unwell.

As part of the permit application, travellers will also be asked whether they have any COVID-19 symptoms, whether they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are a close contact with someone who has, and whether they have visited particular exposure sites.

The Victorian government warned that providing misleading information is an offence, punishable with a fine of up to $1,652.

Under the new system, and based on the latest advice of our public health experts, regional NSW, including the Central Coast, will be reclassified as an orange zone.

That means local residents, as well as Victorians holidaying in these areas, will be able to enter Victoria if they isolate upon their arrival, get tested and stay home until they receive a negative test result.

The state government said border exceptions and exemptions will continue to apply.

“Until we have a vaccine, we’ll need to continue to react and respond to changing circumstances,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.

“This system will make sure we can do just that, while supporting the rapid response of our contact tracing team.”

“With an easy-to-understand traffic light system, Victorians and Australians will understand exactly what the latest public health advice means for them and their travel plans.”

ACT, Tasmania eases restrictions for Greater Brisbane travellers

In other domestic border news, the ACT has followed the Northern Territory’s lead in no longer classifying Greater Brisbane as a COVID hotspot, following a three-day snap lockdown of the region by the Queensland government.

The change means that both ACT residents and non-residents who have been in Greater Brisbane on or after 2 January 2021 are no longer required to quarantine in the territory.

“While those people affected are not required to undertake a COVID-19 test upon leaving quarantine, they are reminded to continue to monitor for symptoms and get tested if they start to experience even the mildest of symptoms,” according to an ACT government update.

The Tasmanian government has modified its advice for some travellers from Greater Brisbane, with those who arrived prior to 9am on Friday 8 January and who are currently self-isolating now allowed to resume normal activities.

Those who arrived in Tasmania after 9am last Friday must continue to quarantine, with the arrangements to be reviewed by tomorrow.

“This means those people in hotel quarantine or approved suitable premises who have travelled from the Greater Brisbane area and arrived here after 9am on Friday 8th of January, must remain in quarantine until public health advises that they are comfortable to ease the risk level,” Tasmania’s Minister for Health, Sarah Courtney, said.

“The continuation of a high-risk designation means that anyone travelling into Tasmania who has spent time in the Greater Brisbane region since the 2nd of January – specifically the areas of Brisbane, Logan, Redlands, Moreton and Ipswich – will be required to quarantine.

“If it is in a government-designated hotel, it will be at your expense.

“We do recognise, however, that the decision made last Friday was made swiftly, so for those who came into our state before 9am on 8th January, or during the following 24 hours, will not need to pay government hotel quarantine costs.”

Featured image source: iStock/Adam Calaitzis

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