8 July 2020

Canberrans rush home to beat COVID-19 border closure

| Dominic Giannini
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Traveller at Canberra Airport

Victorians will not be able to enter the ACT without an exemption after the border closure came into effect on 12:01 am Wednesday morning. Photos: Dominic Giannini.

Canberra and NSW residents have made a last-minute dash for the border before COVID-19 restrictions officially came into effect today.

The ACT has closed its borders to all Victorians travelling without an exemption, moving in line with NSW which announced on Monday that the state’s southern border would close.

An additional 134 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Victoria today (8 July), bringing Melbourne’s total number of active cases to 920.

There was still a sense of confusion from travellers who arrived on the last flight from Melbourne on Tuesday evening before the border closure was in place.

One Canberra woman in her 50s who was returning to the ACT after visiting family in Melbourne said temperature checks were carried out in Victoria, but masks were not handed out until the plane had landed and passengers had disembarked in Canberra.

Passengers were handed information cards from ACT Health at a largely deserted Canberra Airport, had their details recorded and were told to self-quarantine for 14-days.

Passengers who spoke to Region Media but did not wish to be named were Canberrans returning from Melbourne after visiting family, friends and partners.

The light board at Canberra Airport

The 17:35 flight from Melbourne was the last plane to arrive in Canberra before the border closure.

One family with two children in primary school now has to quarantine at home for the rest of the school holidays, having spent most of the last school term learning from home.

Those who returned to the ACT from hotspots in Melbourne were required to self-isolate from last Friday (3 July). On Monday, this order was upgraded to include every traveller from the greater metropolitan Melbourne.

Now that the border is closed, anyone returning from Victoria will have to quarantine at their own cost, Chief Minister Andrew Barr said.

Exemptions to entering the ACT and covering the costs of self-isolating in case a person was not able to do so safely will be considered and granted on a case-by-case basis, Mr Barr said. All returning Canberrans will be granted an exemption but will still need to alert ACT Health about their intention to return to the ACT.

Around 200 exemptions have already been applied for as of midday Wednesday (8 July), most of whom are returning ACT residents.

“We are predominately helping ACT residents to get home and get home safely, and enter quarantine and stay in quarantine to be appropriately monitored by ACT Policing through that period,” Mr Barr said.

The NSW-Victoria border is already clogged with traffic stretching back kilometres as around 700 NSW police officers and 350 Australian Defence Force personnel patrol the border checking vehicles.

Cars with Victorian number plates can also expect to be pulled over and questioned by ACT Policing, Mr Barr said.

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Unless we all self isolate, socially distance and remain cocooned in our homes forever most will eventually contract an infectious virus. Most people will shrug a virus off after a week or so. Sadly some won’t. All we can do is delay the inevitable transmission. Hopefully a vaccine comes. But at some point the price of avoidance and isolation will be just too high if in the process we destroy the economy, set back education and ruin people’s livelihoods.

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