The NSW-Victoria border shutdown had a chaotic first night as cars backed up at cross points and the NSW government website crashed as thousands of people rushed to get permits to avoid heavy fines.
Queues of cars lined up at the border were stopped and searched by police and army troops as the historic border shutdown went into effect, cutting off the entire state of Victoria.
Motorists are facing significant delays this morning, with drivers spending almost an hour in traffic for what is usually a five-minute trip across the border.
Most of the drivers are Victorian workers trying to get to work via Albury, but there are massive queues due to police checkpoints.
It took as many as 12 minutes for cars to cross the bridge into the border town of Moama after being checked by police this morning, the Herald Sun reported.
It was also a difficult start for people trying to apply for a COVID-19 border entry permit into NSW, who were left frustrated as the NSW government website “kept crashing” and went down after its launch, hours before the state line was closed.
Some users were able to click on a red button labelled “Apply Online”, which disappeared and reappeared throughout the night, while others were told: “This transaction is not available at this time. Try again later.”
It went live about 7.30pm with a number of problems reported in the 20 to 40 minutes that followed.
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One woman took to Twitter after her computer screen displayed a message on the site reading: “Sorry, we were unable to process your request”.
In a statement to news.com.au on Tuesday night, a Service NSW spokesman said the application system was live “and experiencing high levels of demand”.
“We are aware that some people have experienced delays in securing a permit and we apologise for the delay.
“In the interim, travellers will be able to demonstrate their eligibility to cross the border to police by carrying relevant documentation based on a category of exemption.”
From 12.01am on Wednesday, July 8, no one can enter NSW from Victoria unless they meet exemption criteria and have been granted a COVID-19 NSW border entry permit.
Applications can be made on the Service NSW website, which went live on Tuesday night.
“Both adults and children are required to get a permit to travel from Victoria to NSW,” the state government says.
“The permit is valid for 14 days from the date of issue and applies to all borders: land, air and sea, as well as river crossings.
“Your permit will indicate if you need to self-isolate for 14 days, get tested for COVID-19 or any other conditions.”
Those exempt are emergency or law enforcement services workers and anyone entering NSW “to avoid injury or escape a risk of harm”.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the border closure was “unfortunately necessary to minimise the risk to NSW residents from COVID-19 challenges in Victoria”.
NSW Police said fines apply to those who breach the state’s public health orders or who falsify information when applying for exemptions.