Inside the fateful journey that brought COVID back to Victoria in a truck for removal

Inside the fateful journey that brought COVID back to Victoria in a truck for removal

When Cherryll Scott set off from her unit to refill bottled water last Thursday, she had to contend with a familiar challenge at the Ariele apartment complex in the west of Melbourne.

“There is only one elevator in the building, how ridiculous is that,” she said of the complex with its 70-80 apartments.

The elevator was “packed” with furniture collected by three Sydney campaigners – a coronavirus hotspot locked – whose journey through three states has triggered the same number of police investigations.

“[The furniture] was all packed, ”she said.

Cherryll Scott in the Ariele apartment complex.(

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“When people move in or out, they just fill up the elevator with furniture and no one could unload them, so I got a little angry and grabbed a few things out.”

She said movers – two of whom have tested positive for COVID-19 – were not wearing face masks.

“I’m not going to blame the states,” said Mrs Scott, who was later ordered to complete a 14-day quarantine following her meeting with the trio.

“If it’s anything, it’s the fault of the removal lists, and they have to take some of the blame for this.”

Exterior of a five-storey apartment building in Maribyrnong.
Residents of the Ariele apartment building will be locked up for two weeks after visits by the infected movers. (

ABC News: Rudy De Santis

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The journey

The trio started early on July 8th. There was a stop at the Shell Coles Express South Gundagai between 01.00 and 1.30. About eight hours later, the truck pulled into Kalkallo Caltex service station and Hungry Jacks north of Melbourne.

The removal’s first job was to deliver furniture to a home in Craigieburn, where they had contact with a family of four.

Just after noon, the trio had contact with another family of four in the Ariele apartments, where they made a collection.

A gas station and McDonald's restaurant
The Westbound Mobile Service Station and McDonald’s restaurant on the Western Highway at Ballan have been considered a level 1 coronavirus exposure site. (

ABC Ballarat: Caitlin Bewley

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Kl. 17:00 to 19:00, the removal personnel had stopped at Mobile Ballan Westbound and McDonalds Ballan Westbound, both at 6511 Western Freeway.

At that time, the crew had arrived in Melbourne on a special work permit for freight drivers.

Victoria’s COVID-19 commander Jeroen Weimar said the moving company was covered by a national code for freight transport, but the removal people had withheld important information that emerged more than 36 hours after they were interviewed.

Under the permit conditions, workers were required to wear a face mask while in Victoria and undergo “effective self-isolation” where practicable during work and stops.

The pit stops

The men’s visit to the state was booked with two breaks at separate service stations. The latter, a visit to Mobil and McDonald’s in Ballan, involved the crew in taking a bath, staying for more than two hours and not wearing masks, as revealed by CCTV footage.

Victorian authorities believed they were sleeping in their truck cabs before marking the road to Adelaide on July 9th.

A gas station
Tailem Bend Shell Service Station on Princes Highway.(

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There was a stop for petrol and coffee between kl. Princes Highway.

At one point, NSW Health warned one of the removal experts that they were a close contact of a person with coronavirus.

On their way back to Sydney on July 10, the men made a series of 30-minute pit stops at a Shell service station in Hay, the Shell service station in Jindera and the BP Express and Hungry Jacks in Marulan.

Hay Shire Council Mayor Jenny Dwyer pointed out that the city was at the intersection of three major highways.

“It shakes society,” she said.

“All it takes is just one person coming through, and as we all know, it can be an exponential increase.”

The 3,000-strong city was dependent on transportation and tourism, and this exposure was the latest in a series of setbacks for locals.

“Of course it’s an impact, no one comes through and travel and tourism, I define it as drought-proof. It’s becoming more and more important because it’s not affected by the climate, so visitors come whether it’s raining or drought,” she says. said.

Four men wearing masks stand in a queue behind orange and white cones.  In the backgound, cars are lined up.
People at the Tailem Bend mobile test clinic after three removal functions – two of which tested positive for the virus – traveled through the area on 9 July.(

ABC News: Lincoln Rothall

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The positive test

On July 11, the man returned a positive test result, and NSW Health officials warned their Victorian colleagues. Victoria closed its borders to NSW.

A day later, the Victorian health department advised that another crew member had tested position for COVID-19.

Australian Furniture Removal Association CEO Simone Hill believed the men did the best they could.

“Removists work under conditions that make social distance possible: more cab employees, close contact with each other and customers, and traveling across closed borders,” Ms. Hill said.

“The nature of removal work means that it is not always possible for removers to social distance.

“When removal advocates are actively involved in heavy lifting, it may not be certain that their breathing is restricted by the use of masks.”

AFRA has not been informed of the identity of the workers or whether they were members of the association.

There has been a growing chorus among Melburnians to “name and shame” the men.

Victoria’s Prime Minister Daniel Andrews refused to name the company involved, leaving the case with police.

“What I want to say to you is that the police in three states are investigating these cases, so I leave it to them,” he told a news conference Friday.

“They are not here now, and they are not coming in again, so there is no purpose served, and we have no purpose to prevent society from using that company.”

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Victoria enters the fifth lockdown.

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Andrews has since banned interstate furniture removers coming from COVID-19 hot spots to Victoria for the next two weeks.

“It’s just a change we can make, especially as things get more volatile and more challenging in terms of more case numbers coming out of Sydney,” he said.

Andrews announced a five-day lockdown Thursday.

Interstate transport workers entering Victoria from red zones were now to be tested every three days instead of seven and carry evidence of a current negative test result.

Victorian Transport Association CEO Peter Anderson has praised these changes, insisting the episode should not be a reflection on the industry.

“With the introduction of these new restrictions, the government has made an important distinction between freight drivers… and the rogue activities of these removal activists,” he said.

“It is very unfortunate that the irresponsible actions of these people have brought the transportation industry into any dishonesty.”

Two women holding shopping bags and wearing colorful puffer jackets and face masks are crossing a road.
Victoria has gone back in a five-day lockdown to try to control the recent outbreak.(

ABC News: Darryl Torpy

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While the authorities try to map the exact route of the removal members, other states take no chances.

South Australia has closed the border to much of Victoria, despite a family of four and service station staff coming into contact with the crew testing negative.

Western Australia reintroduces a tough border from midnight on Saturday and Queensland follows after 1pm. 1:00.

New Zealand has also announced that they will stop the Trans-Tasman bubble with Victoria, with travel from the state no longer allowed unless you are an exempt traveler.

With two separate transmission chains and a growing list of close contacts in Victoria, Mrs Scott remains stranded in her unit.

“It’s a struggle. I like to go and it’s my thing. It’s frustrating I can not do it, but if it’s the price we have to pay, then it must be,” said Mrs Scott .

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