ACT residents who have been hoping to cross the Victorian border since Friday are still no closer to returning home after a series of frustrating false starts, and despite the offer of an ACT police escort between Albury and Canberra.
It’s believed there are as many as 100 ACT residents who had sought permits to return home and must quarantine when they arrive back in Canberra. Late yesterday, hopes were raised that they would be able to travel on updated permits until Tuesday.
But the NSW Government backtracked within hours, despite Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s direct personal intervention with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on the travellers’ behalf.
Last night, ACT Policing prepared an operational plan to escort the ACT residents home, but there’s been no progress since then. Even if the plan is approved, it’s believed that the journey is unlikely to happen today.
The Chief Minister’s office says they are doing everything they can to resolve the situation, which is causing considerable distress for those involved.
“I’m starting to get very anxious about this and lose the plot a bit,” one Canberra resident told Region Media today.
The stranded travellers have been contacted this afternoon by ACT Health. They’ve been told that efforts to solve the situation are ongoing and negotiations are continuing with ACT Policing, NSW Police and the NSW Government.
The travellers have also been asked to confirm that they still want to return home. A suggested alternative option is to fly from Melbourne to Sydney and quarantine in a hotel there before coming back to Canberra. Travellers say they’re loath to go back to the country’s most active hotspot and board a plane, travelling at close quarters.
Meanwhile, it appears that Victorian parliamentarians and their staff are still intending to travel to Canberra for the next Federal parliamentary sitting on 24 August, angering those at the border who point out that they, too, have valid exemptions and must also quarantine for 14 days on arrival in the ACT.
Twelve Victorian parliamentarians and nine of their staff have permission to come to Canberra for the sitting. Although the ACT has suggested strongly that they should complete their full isolation period in Canberra, some are proposing to partially isolate at home and partially isolate in the ACT.
The ACT Government’s COVID-19 website now advises that the only way to access the ACT from Victoria is by air, a situation the government says it cannot remedy.
“Unfortunately, the ACT is unable to change this requirement as the ACT Government is not responsible for the border restrictions of other jurisdictions,” the website says.
“I was confused and frustrated, but I’m more angry,” said Canberra resident Anne Cahill Lambert who has been trying to cross the border with her husband Rod for days after he spent the last four months on a locum placement at Wangaratta Hospital.
Ms Cahill Lambert, who lives with a chronic lung condition, described instructions to fly into Canberra or Sydney from Melbourne as “baffling” for anyone who is classed as vulnerable.