Truck drivers from Victoria have been subject to abuse by angry South Australians who fear they could infect locals with coronavirus.
Essential workers traveling from the coronavirus capital revealed they are being spat on, their vehicles damaged and even having dog poo wiped on their windows when they cross the border.
An increase of abuse has been reported to Business SA, who said drivers are targeted simply because they have Victorian plate numbers.
‘This behaviour is despicable and disgusting,’ Business SA’s chief executive Martin Haese said.
‘A strong message needs to be sent to the community that this type of abuse will not be tolerated and if caught in the act, there will be punishment.’
He also revealed some drivers are refused access to toilets at service stations.
Geoff Redfern owns Belgrave Nursery in Silvan, Victoria and delivers plants to South Australia, which is where 60 per cent of his customers are.
He explained he has been spat on, refused service and sprayed with disinfectant, despite being tested for coronavirus four times and always wearing a mask.
‘You go to a roadhouse and you’re straight up refused a table to sit down,’ he told The Advertiser.
‘You can’t have a shower because ”sorry we’d have to sterilise the shower because you’re a Victorian”.
‘I had one customer in particular who took his boss’s COVID protocol to the next level and sprayed not only the invoice with Pine O Cleen but he continued to spray me.’
Mr Haese described the behaviour as unacceptable, saying truck drivers are needed for essential services.
‘Many South Australian businesses are relying on these essential workers to deliver vital supplies,’ he said.
‘These are the people that are helping to keep the wheels of our economy turning and our businesses open, yet some are being unfairly targeted.’
Under current arrangements, workers in commercial transport and freight services, emergency services, defence and agricultural and primary industries are classified as essential and granted special permits to enter South Australia from Victoria.
New South Wales closed its borders to Victoria on July 8, while South Australia closed its borders on July 28 due to the surge in COVID-19 cases.
The temporary closures were made to ensure the deadly virus did not spread out of control, like it did in Victoria.
Victoria was declared to be in a State of Disaster on August 2 by Premier Daniel Andrews as they battled to contain the virus.
Victoria recorded 148 cases and a further eight deaths on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, South Australia Premier Steven Marshall announced that he will allow residents to go to school across a 40km buffer zone on either side of the state’s border with Victoria from Friday.
He also said he will re-open the border with New South Wales all together if the number of infections remain low – meaning travellers from NSW would not have to self-quarantine on arrival.
The ‘bubble’ between NSW and Victoria is meanwhile set to be loosened from 2.5km to 50km in a bid to get life back to normal for border communities.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the move would happen over the next 10 days, with further adjustments planned including extending the travel radius to 100km for the cross-border agriculture workforce.
Local council leaders have welcomed the decision, saying the decision to close the border between NSW and Victoria because of the latter’s second wave of infections had thrown communities straddling the two states into chaos.
‘The local community was crying out for a solution to strict border closures that are causing chaos and confusion and making it impossible to go about daily life,’ Federation Council Mayor Pat Bourke said.