ACT Policing has set up a second checkpoint at Sutton Road in Pialligo to ensure more cars entering the Territory from NSW comply with updated COVID-19 restrictions.
Non-residents are not allowed to enter the ACT unless they have an exemption if they have been to the Greater Sydney region, the Central Coast or Wollongong in the last 14 days.
Police checked almost 4,450 vehicles across the weekend and turned back 147. An additional 217 returning ACT residents were directed to quarantine.
Most commuters being turned around only planned on travelling through the ACT on their way to the South Coast or another destination, prompting police to tell motorists to use alternative routes and avoid the ACT.
The licence plates of cars being turned back are being recorded. Drivers who try to flout restrictions or enter the ACT illegally will face fines of up to $8,000.
“Police are there to stop the small minority whose disregard for public health directions puts everyone else at risk,” Detective Superintendant Rohan Smith said.
Police have also set up a checkpoint along the Federal Highway with help from seconded AFP personnel.
However, Detective Superintendent Smith acknowledged that ACT Policing could not be at every border entry point.
“[Canberrans] can have a level of confidence that we are mitigating the level of transmission coming into the ACT from NSW,” he said.
Other checkpoints will also be set up in the coming days while passengers on buses and trains are also being monitored.
“We are establishing checkpoints at different roads at different times of the day. We are also conducting larger activities outside of these larger checkpoints,” Detective Superintendant Smith said.
Drivers who use Sutton Road in their daily commute are being encouraged to use alternative routes.
Commuters coming from regional NSW have been experiencing lengthy delays but say police aren’t checking every car at the Federal Highway entrance.
Kirrily McArthur commutes from Sutton to Canberra and said police were pulling over 20 cars at a time while waving 20 to 30 other cars through when she drove through the Federal Highway checkpoint.
“I have NSW plates, so I thought they would definitely check me, but no,” Kirrily said. “I’ve been through the checkpoint four times and never been checked.”
Kirrily and other commuters also say the Federal Highway checkpoint isn’t active first thing in the morning.
Fiori Skuka Nicoli from Goulburn said she entered Canberra on the Federal Highway without any trouble at 7.30 am today (4 January).
Commuters are also getting around checkpoints by using alternative routes where there are currently no checkpoints, meaning people from hotspots in NSW could avoid scrutiny from authorities.
“The road I live on – which is the final road between the Federal Highway and Mulligans Flat Road – has never been busier, so people are coming into Sutton village and going through to Gungahlin,” Kirrily said.
However, the alternative can mean a delay of up to five and a half hours, as Cath Borg’s husband experienced while travelling between Sutton Road and Majura Road for work on Saturday.
He is employed in construction in Canberra but lives in Goulburn and is now paying for accommodation in the city at his own expense to avoid another delay.