Anxious wait for answers as NSW-Victoria border lockdown looms

LOOKING FOR ANSWERS: There were long lines at Service NSW in Albury on Tuesday. Picture: MARK JESSER
LOOKING FOR ANSWERS: There were long lines at Service NSW in Albury on Tuesday. Picture: MARK JESSER

Health care providers are being forced to issue thousands of letters to patients to ensure they will be allowed to access care once the Border closes at midnight.

Permits are still not available through the Service NSW website with just 10 hours until the hard border closure between the two states.

Albury Wodonga Health have reassured patients they will be let through the checkpoint with the letter which were being issued today.

For pregnant women on the NSW side, they will have to cross the border to access the city's maternity ward in Wodonga.

Chief executive Michael Kalimnios said the cross border health service has been working closely with the Department of Health and Human Services, the New South Wales Ministry of Health and NSW Police to ensure appropriate access for patients is maintained.

"Patients who have appointments scheduled with Albury Wodonga Health are being issued with authorised letters from the health service to assist with travel between the two cities," he said.

"This documentation can be used, along with any other supporting material to enable passage across the New South Wales and Victorian borders, until the travel exemption permit system is up and running via Services NSW."

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The lack of information less than 12 hours from the NSW-Victoria border closure left Indi MP Helen Haines "staggered".

But she has urged everyone to stay calm.

"I am calling on the NSW Premier to provide an iron-clad guarantee that no Victorian will be prevented from crossing the NSW border to access healthcare and that if there are delays in issuing permits, that no Victorian will be prevented from crossing the border to get to work, for education or on compassionate grounds," she said.

"We don't yet know which regions will be designated as 'Border communities' to qualify for automatic permits.

"Many people living in places like Wangaratta, Chiltern and Beechworth travel every day into NSW for work need to be able to do so, not be excluded based on their postcode."

Hours before the official closure of the NSW-Victorian border comes into effect at midnight, the XPT from Sydney to Melbourne chose to terminate at Albury on Tuesday morning, refusing to go into Victoria.

Passengers who left from Sydney at 8.40pm on Monday thought they would be on the overnight train for the whole journey.

But when they arrived in Albury, they were told the train would not continue south of the border.

One passenger said the announcement made on the train was "we do apologise, but the decision was made last night, last minute".

A one-off coach service, which was from Victoria, transported travellers from Albury to Southern Cross Station so they could complete their journeys.

A Transport for NSW spokeswoman confirmed on Tuesday the decision had been made that the XPT would not cross into Victoria while the border was closed temporarily.

"Transport for NSW and Department of Transport (Victoria) are currently assessing other public transport services which operate between NSW and Victoria," she said.

"The safety of all customers and staff is the number one priority and Transport for NSW will continue to proactively address the evolving situation."

Transport NSW was still waiting for the state's public health order to be signed before making any directions on local bus services.

This story Anxious wait for answers as NSW-Victoria border lockdown looms first appeared on The Canberra Times.