The Victorian government will grant primary producers and agricultural workers exemptions to the New Year’s Eve border closure with NSW, but agricultural workers who travel north of the border to work will still be required to isolate for 14 days and be tested for coronavirus twice.
The permit system will allow producers in need of workers to pick fruit to bring in labour from across the border.
Permitted workers must only remain in Victoria for the “necessary” period to work and must quarantine when not working, and only leave accommodation for takeaway food or drink, bathroom stops, medical care, in an emergency or to obtain a coronavirus test – which they must do “regularly”.
Victorians living outside the border bubble region will be required to self-isolate for 14 days after returning to Victoria.
Minister for Regional Development Mary-Anne Thomas said on Monday morning said all agricultural workers living and working between NSW and Victoria can apply for a permit to enter Victoria “to keep the state’s vital food and fibre supply chain working”.
The only other people allowed entry to Victoria from NSW – apart from existing border bubble arrangements – are individuals holding an exemption from the Department of Health and Human Services, those with a transit permit from another jurisdiction, Victorians who have completed 14 days’ mandatory quarantine in NSW, and people in set categories like emergency services workers.
The government said anyone seeking to enter Victoria from NSW outside of the approved categories would now be turned back.
Ms Thomas said the permits were to keep the state safe.
“Many of our agriculture workers need to cross the border to perform their vital work,” she said.
“We’re backing the food and fibre industry in these challenging times – I urge anyone needing support to get in touch with Agriculture Victoria as a first port of call.”
Deputy Premier Jacinta Allan said agricultural workers were essential.
there are some really strong standards around this, but it’s also important to ensure we have the movement of our agricultural workforce, particularly as there’s a lot of – lot of product that needs to continue to move around and a lot of workforce that’s needed to support that.
Agriculture workers who need to cross the border will be able to apply for a permit at service.vic.gov.au from Monday or contact Agriculture Victoria on 136 186 for further information.