Victorian border permit system goes live, after a delay

By Matthew Elmas

Tuesday January 12, 2021

border permit
(AAP Image/James Ross)

Victoria’s department of health and human services (DHHS) has apologized after implementation delays held up a new permit system for people entering the state.

Yesterday afternoon the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews unveiled a new ‘traffic light’ system to screen interstate arrivals based on their COVID-19 risk, saying it would go live from 5.59PM.

But it was not rolled out until around 9PM—three hours after the announced timeline—reportedly due to delays in the signing of legal directions approving the program.

The Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton, who was responsible for signing the paperwork, later took to Twitter to clarify the directions were filed on time, and a government spokesperson later cited technical issues.

Thousands of Victorian residents have been stranded interstate over the holiday period amid a reintroduction of border restrictions with NSW, sparked by a resurgence in coronavirus cases.

The new system has been designed to push the state towards a more nuanced risk-based model for assessing whether travelers can re-enter, with three different classifications and re-entry permits able to be obtained ‘within minutes’.

But minutes turned to hours on Monday evening, as travelers on social media, unable to access the website after the 6PM deadline, began criticizing the government.

The web page dedicated to the program directed travelers to ‘check back here later today’.

Service Victoria and DHHS took to Twitter after the program eventually did go live to apologise.

“Service Vic and DHHS are very sorry for the delay and any inconvenience,” the departments said.

Under Victoria’s new permit system fines of $4,957 will apply to travelers who break the rules, in addition to a smaller $1,652 penalty for providing misleading information.

There are three types of risk ‘zones’: red, orange and green. Travellers who have visited red zones in the last 14 days cannot enter Victoria without an exemption.

Those who’ve traveled in orange zones will require a permit and must self-isolate pending a coronavirus test result.

Green zone travelers will also still need to apply for permits, but won’t be required to be tested, instead told to watch for symptoms.

“Until we have a vaccine, we’ll need to continue to react and respond to changing circumstances. This system will make sure we can do just that, while supporting the rapid response of our contact tracing team,” Andrews said of the new program.

Officials touted the benefits of the new program as efficiency and a move to a more nuanced approach that will allow travelers to begin to return based on their risk profiles, rather than a blanket policy barring entry or requiring hotel quarantine.

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