Melbourne’s “ring of steel” is causing massive traffic delays on the road to Geelong, with long lines of vehicles banked up behind checkpoints.
Victoria Police and Australian Defence Force personnel are enforcing traffic restrictions for a second day to ensure Melburnians don’t try to take advantage an easing of coronavirus restrictions in regional Victoria.
Channel Nine aired helicopter footage of traffic at the Little River checkpoint heading to Geelong on the Princes Highway, stretching back about 20 kilometres.
On Thursday, Assistant Commissioner Rick Nugent said police would try to keep delays at checkpoints to half an hour, specifying a particular focus on vehicles appearing to carry holidaymakers.
“We will be checking every vehicle that is towing a caravan, a camper trailer or other trailer, towing a boat or jetski or has surfboards or fishing rods or swags,” Mr Nugent said.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews also had a firm warning on Thursday for anyone hoping to sneak out of the city.
“The police are not mucking about. If you are from Melbourne and you are in regional Victoria and did not have an appropriate excuse, you will be fined,” Mr Andrews said.
“Anyone who thinks they might take a punt on heading to regional Victoria and not getting caught, I think your odds are very poor.”
With these checkpoints in place, Melburnians who leave the metropolitan area without a lawful reason will be handed a $4957 fine and turned back.
It came as Victoria’s coronavirus infections jumped again, with 45 more cases reported on Friday.
There were also five more fatalities, taking the state’s COVID death toll to 750. The national toll is 837.
Meanwhile, Mr Andrews faces fresh questions about claims from the state’s former top cop that his office “set up” the deal to use private security guards in its botched hotel quarantine scheme.
Text message between then-chief commissioner Graham Ashton and Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw was shown at Victoria’s hotel quarantine inquiry on Thursday.
The exchange revealed the Department of Premier and Cabinet might have played a role in the fateful decision to use private security guards.
In his written statement, Mr Ashton wasn’t sure whose idea it was to use private security guards but it was not his.
He suggested it was Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Chris Eccles who made the recommendation about 1.20pm on March 27, minutes before his text message exchange with Mr Kershaw.
Mr Andrews has been reticent to comment on aspects of the ongoing inquiry but has previously said there was no explicit offer for the ADF to guard the hotels.
He is scheduled to appear before the inquiry next Wednesday, although he will likely be questioned about the claim at his daily media briefing on Friday.
The inquiry has heard security guards caught COVID-19 from returned travellers in hotel quarantine, sparking the state’s second wave of coronavirus.
“Mistakes have been made in relation to this program. The community’s entitled to answers,” Mr Andrews told parliament on Thursday.
The explosive evidence comes as health authorities attempt to mop up a coronavirus cluster in south-east Melbourne described as a “super-spreading event”.