Area Police will continue their border controls on non-residents when ACT enters their third day of border closings with COVID-19 hotspots in New South Wales

Cars are parked on the Federal Highway waiting to pass the police checkpoints into the ACT Image: Matt Loxton

The ACT government announced on Saturday that it is effectively closing its borders to non-residents who have been in COVID-19 hotspots and requiring returning residents who have visited them a 14-day quarantine would

ACT Policing confirmed 1,739 vehicles were stopped and 135 vehicles were unable to enter on Saturday ACT residents returning from the identified areas were among those with 119 quarantined

The operations continued on Sunday on the main road near the border and resumed on Monday, the police said

“ACT Policing will continue to patrol highways and roads into Canberra and increase its activity at certain times of the day,” said an ACT Policing spokesman

A few miles away on the Barton Highway, a half-hour detour down the Federal Highway, the police presence was tight

The same goes for the Kings Highway, which allows access to the territory through the NSW town of Queanbeyan to the west of Canberra

Police would not provide any justification as to why similar checkpoints were not set up on alternative highways leading into the area

They would also not disclose what measures were being taken to deter people from simply taking the detours, but maintained patrols would randomly check vehicles to ensure health compliance

An ACT government spokesman said it relied on the goodwill of local and non-local residents to do the right thing

“During the pandemic, when we asked the community to do something to protect our community, people listened and took our advice”

The government confirmed that nearly 2,700 people were quarantined in the ACT as of Sunday afternoon, of whom 2,523 had returned from the COVID hotspots in NSW

The majority of visitors and returning residents are expected to have passed away, but the government acknowledged the ACT was not yet clear

“We continued to see high numbers over the weekend as the updated direction has only been in place since noon [Saturday] However, we expect this to stabilize once people become familiar with the travel restrictions currently in place, “the spokesman said

“It is very likely that the ACT will see cases here related to the NSW outbreak in the coming weeks, with movements of people from these COVID-affected areas posing the greatest risk to the ACT

“Because of this, we reacted quickly to introduce strict travel restrictions and quarantine requirements for everyone in these areas”

The checkpoints on the main road caused confusion and frustration for many on Saturday, as the queues along the main road stretched for miles

A resident, Simone Maher, was visiting Lerida Estate for a birthday dinner with friends on Saturday. Upon her return, she was caught by a long line of cars waiting to enter the area, and the typical 30 minute drive Ride became a three hour

“We weren’t aware that we were going to be stopped by a checkpoint coming home,” Ms. Maher said

The hiatus began 15 kilometers from Eagle Hawk Park, Ms. Maher said. Once she made it to the police checkpoint by 5 a.m., 30 p.m. her license was checked and a few questions asked and she was allowed through

Kerryn Coleman, ACT chief health officer, said the stricter restrictions put in place on Saturday were necessary to keep the ACT community safe

“In the past few days, around 80 non-ACT residents from COVID-19 affected areas have continued to travel to ACT daily,” said Dr Coleman

“We are introducing tightened travel restrictions to make it absolutely clear to non-ACT residents who live in or have recently visited areas of NSW affected by COVID-19 that they cannot be currently on the ACT”

Anyone who breaks the new rules can be fined up to $ 8,000, said incumbent Health Secretary Chris Steel

Cars are parked on the main road waiting to board the ACT in the middle of the border closure Image: Matt Loxton

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Source: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/7073205/vehicles-turned-away-residents-quarantined-amid-act-border-closure/