Helen Haines has asked the NSW Premier to guarantee that Albury Wodonga residents will at all times be able to move between the twin cities to access health services and ensure permits are readily available for education, business and work while the border remains closed during Victoria’s current coronavirus spike.

The Independent Federal Member for Indi said constituents started contacting her Wodonga and Wangaratta electorate offices this morning, concerned and distressed about the border closure, which takes effect from 11:59pm tomorrow (Tuesday, July 7).

“This announcement has caused uncertainty for many of us who live in border and neighbouring communities,” Dr Haines said.

“But the people of Albury Wodonga are likely to be most seriously affected by the border closure.

“Many people cross the border several times a day to work, go to school or university, or access critical health services.

“Albury Wodonga Health operates the country’s only cross-border public health service, with hospital, care and allied services shared either side of the Murray River.

“In the past few hours I’ve had contact from many people concerned about accessing dialysis and cancer treatment at Albury Wodonga Health’s Albury campus.

“There needs to be no doubt in anyone’s mind that they will be able to cross the border seamlessly for health issues.

“I don’t want to hear of one case where someone on one side of the border is not able to access critical health care on the other because of a health crisis.

“We need guarantees of access and a workable, easily accessible permit system so that people can go to work and businesses can operate.”

Dr Haines noted the NSW Premier this morning said that for the next 72 hours some people who normally travel across the border will be restrained until the permit system is in place.

“Applications will open for permits tomorrow, yet we don’t have any assurance that permits will be issued by Wednesday, when the closure takes effect,” Dr Haines said.

“What will happen if someone needs to cross for a medical reason but they don’t have a permit? Will they be told to wait a day? The NSW Government must clarify how this will work. In taking steps to avoid one health crisis, we must ensure we don’t create another”.

Dr Haines said she had received a briefing from the Prime Minister’s Office this morning on the border closure and its impact in local communities.

“I will work with the federal and state governments to provide constituents with as much information as possible and to deal with any issues that this closure presents,” she said.

“It’s clearly a serious decision which the NSW and Victorian governments have taken on the latest scientific, health and population advice to keep our communities safe.

“But I also acknowledge the frustration of people in the North East where there has not been a positive coronavirus diagnosis for weeks across our nine local government areas and only 14 recorded since the pandemic began.”

Dr Haines said people in Albury Wodonga or in neighbouring communities, such as Walwa and Rutherglen, who believe they will be affected by the border closure should check for updates from Service NSW on its website https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/covid-19.

Service NSW anticipates that permit information will be available from tomorrow afternoon (Tuesday, July 7).

Dr Haines said Indi constituents facing difficulties should contact her Wodonga electorate office on 02 6024 6284 or Wangaratta office on 03 5721 7077, or email helen.haines.mp@aph.gov.au.

She said constituents could also put comments or concerns in a Facebook message at https://www.facebook.com/helenhainesindi/

[July 6, 2020]

IMAGE: Helen Haines MP with federal Health Minister Greg Hunt talks with the media in Wodonga during the January 2020 bushfire emergency.

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