Returning residents and potential visitors to Victoria have criticised the government’s sudden announcement of mandatory entry permits, after the website to apply for the required documentation was still not working hours after the 6pm deadline.
Earlier on Monday, premier Daniel Andrews announced that anybody wanting to enter Victoria, including from areas with no travel restrictions, needed to apply for a permit through the Service Victoria website.
In a 2pm press conference, Andrews said the new rules would come into effect at 6pm, and announced a new maximum penalty of $5,000 for those arriving without a permit.
He also announced that regional NSW would be downgraded from a “red” zone to an “orange” zone at 6pm, meaning that Victorian residents could enter the state with a permit.
The chief health officer, Dr Brett Sutton, told reporters he expected the application process would take people “a matter of minutes”.
But by the 6pm deadline, the website to apply for a permit was not operational.
The application site did not start working until a few minutes before 9pm with Service Victoria and the Department of Health and Human Services apologising for the delay on Twitter.
For nearly three hours, text on the application website said: “From today, you will need to apply for a permit to enter Victoria from anywhere in Australia. The new permit system will be available shortly. Please check back here later today.”
Ahron Young tweeted at 7.50pm that the permit site was not working as he waited at Maroochydore airport in Queensland to fly to Melbourne.
Sutton denied on Twitter that the problem was due to a delay in him signing off on the necessary paperwork.
Earlier in the day, Andrews said that the permit system was necessary for safety and was similar to Western Australia’s G2G pass system for travellers.
“It is not onerous at all,” he said. “Go to the Services Victoria website and get a permit, if you are in a green zone you can travel, if you are in orange you can travel as well, if you are red then you cannot travel.
“I do not think there is anything wrong with doing everything we possibly can to keep our state safe… [and] play a part in the overall nation to keep this virus out.”
Andrews said imposing a new $5,000 fine was “not a decision we make lightly” and he “hoped we don’t have to issue any of those fines”.
“It’s a simple easy practical way of doing this…if you don’t follow those rules, you face that $5,000 fine. But I do hope we don’t have to issue any of those fines, as people will take this seriously and do the right things by themselves and every single Victorian.”
As of 8.30pm on Monday, the Department of Health and Human Services said that people who arrived at the border without a valid permit will “be turned away at the border and face a possible fine”.
“You will be able to apply for a permit through a smart device and permits should be issued quickly,” the website said.
“It should take less than five minutes to complete a permit application. Your permit application will be processed automatically.”
NSW border community residents are exempt from the new permit system, and permits are not required if you are seeking emergency care or accompanying a dependent seeking emergency care.
The Department of Health and Human Services has been contacted for comment.