ACT residents stranded at Victorian border as rules change without warning

Genevieve Jacobs 10 August 2020 36
Anne Cahill Lambert at the NSW-Victoria border

Anne Cahill Lambert is one of many ACT residents who has been stopped at the NSW-Victoria border. Photo: Supplied.

Canberrans with valid travel permits have been stranded at the Victorian border after NSW authorities changed their access requirements at one minute past midnight last night without informing travellers.

The ACT Government has confirmed they are scrambling to help dozens of locals who had received permission to return to their homes in the ACT, but have been left stranded in rain and freezing winter temperatures at the border.

“We are aware that there is currently a serious border restriction problem for people wishing to travel by road from Victoria, through NSW, to the ACT,” a statement from the Chief Minister’s office says.

“We have significant concerns that ACT residents, or those with an exemption (such as Federal MPs), to enter the ACT are no longer allowed to transit through NSW.

“These concerns have been urgently raised with the NSW Premier’s office and the Prime Minister’s Office.”

Region Media has been told that emails advising of the new restrictions landed in inboxes after 10 this morning, well after most travellers had set out from Melbourne.

Anne Cahill Lambert has been in Victoria for the past five months while her husband Rod undertook a locum placement at the Wangaratta Hospital. She told Region Media this afternoon “it is a debacle at the border”.

The Lamberts had applied for permission earlier this week to return to the ACT, which was granted. They then had to apply for permission to travel through NSW by the most direct route possible. That permission was also granted on Wednesday.

The permits were detailed and set strict time limits around travel. But when they arrived at the border around midday today, NSW police told them and other Canberrans that NSW entry requirements had changed at midnight.

Rather than returning home, they must fly into Sydney and quarantine in a hotel at their own expense before coming back to Canberra. ACT residents have been advised not to travel to greater Sydney, unless for urgent reasons.

“The police seemed pretty embarrassed about it because all our permits were in order,” Ms Cahill Lambert said.

“All they could suggest was that we ring the NSW authorities. When we got onto the NSW service centre, the only help they could offer us was the number for the general police enquiries line, which was a bit pointless since the police were right there.

“It’s 7 degrees and we are stopped by the side of the road in the driving rain with other ACT residents who also thought they had done all the right things.”

Ms Cahill Lambert has been in touch with the Chief Minister’s office, who confirmed to Region Media that they are attempting to resolve the problem with the NSW Premier’s office.

Velinka Vecchi and her husband Joe are similarly distressed by the situation their son Nick and his partner have found themselves in. The Vecchis had cleared their house and moved their other children out to enable the pair to quarantine in safety once they reached home.

“Nick and his partner did the COVID test, received the results and had all their paperwork in order”, Ms Vecchi said. But after being stopped by police, they are still at the border with a number of other ACT residents.

“At this stage they won’t get back to Melbourne by 8pm before the curfew. If they can’t get through they’ll have to fly into Sydney and expose themselves to rich more danger of infection on the plane and in the airport”, she said.

The NSW Government’s website says that: “From 12:01 am Friday 7 August, returning New South Wales residents will only be allowed to return through Sydney Airport. Returning NSW residents must also go into mandatory hotel quarantine for 14 days, at their own expense.

“Transitional border entry permits expire after 14 days. Check your permit expiry date.

“If you applied for a Transitional border entry permit on 21 July, your permit expired on Tuesday 4 August at 11:59 pm and you need to apply for a new permit.”

This includes permits issued as recently as yesterday or Wednesday.

A press release from NSW Police dated Friday, August 7, 02:46:23 PM says “The NSW Police Force has launched an expansion of the multi-agency hotel quarantine operation to now include NSW residents returning from Victoria, following an amendment to COVID-19 Public Health Orders which came into effect at 12.01am today (Friday 7 August 2020)”.

The press release goes on to say that an order under section 7 of the Public Health Act 2010 now directs NSW residents returning from Victoria to go directly to a quarantine facility.

“Further, amendments to the Public Health (COVID-19 Border Control) Order 2020 mean NSW residents returning from Victoria, unless they live within the NSW border regions, will only be allowed to re-enter NSW through Sydney Airport.

“Following a NSW Police Force request, a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) has been issued, which prohibits passengers from Victoria without a valid permit or exemption from landing at any regional NSW airport.

The Chief Minister’s office says that while they are doing their best to resolve the problem and assist stranded locals, they’re powerless to resolve the impasse themselves because these are NSW regulations.

“We have been here since midday,” Ms Cahill Lambert said. “I am so angry about how this has been handled for us all. The bizarre thing is that we have been in northeastern Victoria where there is no virus, helping back up the Victorian health system.

“I’ve said to the authorities down here that I’m quite happy to set up a refugee camp on the border because that’s how it feels”.


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36 Responses to ACT residents stranded at Victorian border as rules change without warning
scottybt50 scottybt50 1:07 pm 11 Aug 20

I am sure this would be resolved rather quickly if the government directed that all NSW MPs travelling to the ACT need to go and quarantine in Queanbeyan for 10 days.

Chris Sant Chris Sant 11:22 pm 10 Aug 20

Gladys is an absolute disgrace. Completely ridiculous to suggest that people who have been doing essential work in country Victoria should have to fly to Sydney (which would probably require driving to Melbourne), spend 14 days there, then somehow get themselves back to Canberra, having had to leave their car in Victoria.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:13 pm 10 Aug 20

If there are arrangements that allow freight from Melbourne to travel through NSW to supply ACT and NSW shops, surely those arrangements could have been adapted to resolve this mess.

Acton Acton 11:22 pm 08 Aug 20

If I had told you a year ago that Australians were capable of such vindictive nastiness to each other, and governments of such incomprehensible stupidity, you would not believe me. Everyone in this sorry debacle will be held accountable. Very soon people will reach their tipping point.

    paulmuster paulmuster 2:27 pm 09 Aug 20

    Normally you need to have actually said something on the record to pull the “told you so card”.

    I think the only thing you are widely quoted for over the past year is confusing weather and climate and repeating other sky news talking points like the Andrew Bolt budgee that you are.

    Regardless, this situation is yet to be resolved, so maybe keep your revolution speculation to yourself until then.

Cary Elliot Johnson Cary Elliot Johnson 4:04 pm 08 Aug 20

What a disgrace. Are we all Australians or not? A bit of understanding and leniency is in order.

O L O L 2:26 pm 08 Aug 20

Don’t leave your state or territory in any pandemic and this wouldn’t be an issue

    Maya123 Maya123 3:40 pm 08 Aug 20

    Did you not read, “Anne Cahill Lambert has been in Victoria for the past five months while her husband Rod undertook a locum placement at the Wangaratta Hospital.”

    Or do you think that Wangaratta should not have had the doctor’s services?

    Helen Goddard Helen Goddard 4:01 pm 08 Aug 20

    Because if you’re a doctor and you’re working to help the pandemic response, leaving home to do so would be irresponsible? Read the article. And as others have said, there are lots of reasons why people have been in Victoria. And there are lots of people making judgements without knowing the story of those people. But these people had the right documents and rules were changed without consultation or advice to those with existing permits.

Jen Harkness Jen Harkness 10:42 pm 07 Aug 20

People NSW rules not ACT

Jeff Bradley Jeff Bradley 10:26 pm 07 Aug 20

Karla , because Morrison is coordinating it.

Rosemary Brooker Rosemary Brooker 9:40 pm 07 Aug 20

Maybe the NSW & ACT Police can give them a police escort to a hotel in Canberra & they can quarantine there, with their car & belongings. Family could drop off food parcels to the guards at the front door to be delivered to their room. At least they will be nearly home.

    Don Cameron Don Cameron 11:21 am 08 Aug 20

    I totally agree. Thought of this last night but don't know who to contact. It seems like a sensible idea. These people have valid permits and many if not all have been tested and will isolate in safe surroundings. Last night some of them had to arrange hotel accommodation at their own expense in Wodonga because Melbourne had a curfew and will now have to fly home for the same result. Added unnecessary cost and distress.

    Anne Cahill Lambert Anne Cahill Lambert 1:14 pm 08 Aug 20

    We had already agreed to self isolate for 14 days - same as politicians! Except we wouldn't be allowed out to Parliament House.

    Margaret Ford Margaret Ford 8:43 pm 08 Aug 20

    Gosh Anne, the combination of Rod's heroic volunteer medical service in NE Victoria and your willingness to self quarantine should give you a clear passage into the ACT. I'm all for safety but can we not rely on our medical community to protect the public anymore? What has Rod done to make the authorities nervous about his transmission of infection? He's only had a career in hands-on medical emergency services in major hospitals. What's not to admire? I'd rather they focussed on the uneducated and violent anti-police nutters who have been seduced by false legal arguments!

Joel Benson Joel Benson 9:23 pm 07 Aug 20

So Barr is trying to let these people return from Victoria with no quarantine ? In the Canberra Times it was reported one couple were in the Hume muncipality, which is in the top 5 Victorian hotspots. Rules are Rules. At least Gladys is now enforcing tough rules. Stay in bloody Victoria. Even if they did get through they should be forced into 14 days quarantine in a hotel at their own expense. Again something Gladys has introduced. Barr should hang his head in shame if they are allowed back, without this.

    Helen Goddard Helen Goddard 1:33 pm 08 Aug 20

    Read the article ... that's not the story at all. These people had, like politicians, agreed to isolate for the mandated 14 day period. Some of these people are on their way home having worked in NE Victoria in the hospital system -- as essential workers -- and they had valid permits to return. Just where do you think they should live?

Kel Senior Kel Senior 8:39 pm 07 Aug 20

TOO LATE!!!!

Cathy Batsh Cathy Batsh 7:51 pm 07 Aug 20

For safety reason I guess it should be done.

Charlie Sgroi Charlie Sgroi 7:27 pm 07 Aug 20

Act government doesn't scramble for anything.

What a joke.

Sue Skinner Sue Skinner 7:26 pm 07 Aug 20

Plenty of Vic & Qld number plates in the ACT & Queanbeyan today....

    Kerri Hallas Kerri Hallas 7:34 pm 07 Aug 20

    Sue Skinner and NSW ones near and on the highway near Calwell that clearly have no idea where they are going... cars loaded with belongings to the roof....

    Adam Hughes Adam Hughes 10:07 pm 07 Aug 20

    That's fine. As long as they don't have covid.

    Interstate number plates won't kill you

Andrew Dale Andrew Dale 7:24 pm 07 Aug 20

Seriously do we want people coming back here that have been in Melbourne without hibernation ?

    Darron Marks Darron Marks 9:51 pm 07 Aug 20

    Hibernation 😆

    Anne Cahill Lambert Anne Cahill Lambert 1:13 pm 08 Aug 20

    I've been in NE Victoria where there is no Covid. We go straight into isolation if/when we get home.

June Kirk June Kirk 7:03 pm 07 Aug 20

NSW Government needed to take into account ACT residents and include ACT Government in enacting these changes. These poor ACT people 😥

    Joel Benson Joel Benson 9:32 pm 07 Aug 20

    June Kirk Did Barr talk to the Queensland Government when they declared the ACT a hotspot even though we have no cases. No he didn't. Blame Barr for being lax, not Gladys. She is protecting the citizens of NSW and has ever right to.

Karla O'Brien Karla O'Brien 6:29 pm 07 Aug 20

Why are our states not communicating and working together😡

Peter Norton Peter Norton 5:42 pm 07 Aug 20

Wow, really feel for these people who are stuck. In many situations the authorities have given many days warning before shutting a border, but this change appears to have been made too quickly.

    Anne Cahill Lambert Anne Cahill Lambert 1:11 pm 08 Aug 20

    We didn't get a day's notice. We got no notice until we got to the border.

Joanne Jeanes Joanne Jeanes 5:41 pm 07 Aug 20

Not very well thought out or organised.

Rob Tomsen Rob Tomsen 5:25 pm 07 Aug 20

The country sad to say is a joke

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