UPDATED: ACT Police ready to escort stranded locals back from border

Genevieve Jacobs 8 August 2020 17

Police stopped dozens of ACT residents with valid travel permits at the Victorian border. Photo: File.

UPDATED 6:45 pm, August 8: ACT police are standing by to escort ACT residents home from the Victorian border tomorrow morning, pending approval from the NSW Government.

It’s been an afternoon of confusing developments for ACT residents, now believed to number as many as 100, who had been turned back from the border on Friday afternoon.

Early this afternoon, it appeared that Canberrans with the appropriate permits would be allowed to cross the border from 3 pm onwards drive to the ACT and then to quarantine.

But no sooner had the announcement been made than last minute doubts began to emerge on the part of the NSW Government.

The Chief Minister’s office has confirmed this evening that Andrew Barr has “directly and personally” put the case to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian that the ACT residents should be escorted to Canberra.

“ACT Police are preparing an operations plan”, a statement released this evening says.

“The escort will occur tomorrow should we get confirmation from NSW tonight”.

Confused residents who are desperate to get home say they were told this evening that permits for travelling tomorrow were being held off. They were advised not to travel tonight and are waiting for phone and email contact to clarify the situation.

The COVID-19 hotline number is 6207 7244.

4 pm, August 8: Stranded ACT residents hit by unexpected changes to travel restrictions at the Victorian border have been given a reprieve and can now return home to quarantine in the ACT.

As of 3:00 pm this afternoon, those waiting at Wodonga will be permitted to return to Canberra, while others with the correct paperwork can travel until next Tuesday. They will then need to quarantine for 14 days in the ACT.

The Chief Minister’s office intervened on their behalf with the NSW Government after changes were made abruptly late on Thursday night, without advising those who had already obtained travel permits.

“ACT Health is pleased to advise that the NSW Government will allow road transit from Victoria to the ACT for those with existing ACT exemptions for a short period of time. This includes returning ACT Residents, and people relocating to the ACT with proof of an ACT residential address,” a statement from ACT Health says.

“They will need to cross the Victorian/NSW border before midday on Tuesday 11 August, drive directly to the ACT, and notify ACT Health of their arrival.

“ACT Health is in contact with those who hold approved exemptions to discuss their updated travel plans, and has been working with closely with the NSW Government to support ACT residents who were impacted by NSW border measures that were introduced on Friday 7 August.”

Velinka Vecchi, whose son Nick and his partner had cleared COVID-19 tests and completed all necessary NSW and ACT approvals before being turned back at the border yesterday, told Region Media that her family is “all emotional but very relieved they will be home and don’t need to fly on Monday”.

Her son and his partner had stayed in Wodonga overnight.

Anne Cahill Lambert and her husband Rod were also stranded after he completed a four-month locum stint at Wangaratta Hospital to relieve strain on the Victorian health system. They’ve described themselves as being “drained beyond belief” by the experience.

READ ALSO: ACT residents stranded at Victorian border as rules change without warning

The Lamberts saw out three changes of police shift at the border while waiting in freezing weather for assistance and support with many other ACT registered vehicles.

“We are most grateful to the ACT authorities who have brought about this return to common sense,” Ms Cahill Lambert told Region Media.

“It was difficult for them and a testament to their perseverance. I’m exhausted from the whole palaver but looking forward to returning home to serve my period of isolation by making even more scones and apple cakes.”

It’s been revealed that enabling legislation requiring all travellers to return by air to Sydney was enacted at 11:00 pm on Thursday night, just one hour before the closure came into effect. Travellers were told they would need to fly from Melbourne to Sydney and quarantine in Sydney hotels.

The ACT has strongly advised Canberrans not to travel to the Greater Sydney region unless for urgent reasons.

Emails about the changes were not sent until the following morning and many local authorities were not officially briefed until well after the border crossing became clogged with angry and confused travellers.

Indigo Shire mayor Jenny O’Connor has told local media that she did not get official information about the changes until 4:00 pm on Friday afternoon, while media releases were sent out around 2:30 pm yesterday afternoon.

More to come.

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17 Responses to UPDATED: ACT Police ready to escort stranded locals back from border
Lucy Baker Lucy Baker 4:43 pm 09 Aug 20

There are no plans by the ACT Government to actively monitor these returnees through house calls (you’d think they would have learned from the Victorian experience). Up to a quarter (as we know) are going to breach isolation. Look out – our COVID-free bubble is about to come to an end.

MERC600 MERC600 11:11 am 09 Aug 20

Interesting that this 200 odd are considered much healthier than the Federal Victorian pollies.
A very recent tweet .. ” The Chief Minister has warned PM Scott Morrison that returning Victorian MPs could pose a “significant risk” of COVID-19 transmission for Canberra as they prepare to attend the next sitting of Parliament.”.

    JC JC 2:18 pm 09 Aug 20

    How do you work that out? In both cases they are allowed to travel here and need to isolate.

XK140 XK140 9:33 am 09 Aug 20

Bad luck if you have a Hard promoted Battery powered electric car. Doesn’t have the capability of driving Wodonga to Canberra without a lengthy several hours recharging stop.

Kerry-Anne Butta Kerry-Anne Butta 7:31 am 09 Aug 20

For those worried they might be bringing the virus into ACT...if they are and they stop for a toilet break or petrol or food prior to being back in the ACT they also risk offloading the virus in NSW. 🤔

    Susan Robyn Susan Robyn 12:36 pm 09 Aug 20

    ACT remains at risk from NSW bringing it into ACT when they attend our schools and hospitals. ACT currently covid free unlike NSW. Need to look In more detail here. That’s the problem with the current one size fits all approach.

Karla O'Brien Karla O'Brien 9:44 pm 08 Aug 20

Thank god commonsense has prevailed in this situation. NSW needs to better communicate with the ACT.

Margaret Welsh Margaret Welsh 8:46 pm 08 Aug 20

My question is, unless there's been an emergency, why in hell would you go there in the first place under the current circumstances? I have little sympathy.

    Anne Cahill Lambert Anne Cahill Lambert 8:54 pm 08 Aug 20

    We didn't just "go" there. My husband was working at one of the hospitals to help out with the Covid workload. Not wanting your sympathy but not appreciating your criticism either.

    Margaret Welsh Margaret Welsh 8:55 pm 08 Aug 20

    I count that as an emergency. I'm not knocking people going there for essential reasons, but I know of a number of people who went to Victoria for holidays. Not on Jan.

Joanne Mitchell Joanne Mitchell 7:12 pm 08 Aug 20

There’s a few relocating to the ACT from Victoria as well but they are asking proof of an ACT address

Margaret Freemantle Margaret Freemantle 6:59 pm 08 Aug 20

How about we all stay isolated and still?? Couldn’t be clearer that this is essential

Rosemary Brooker Rosemary Brooker 6:36 pm 08 Aug 20

A sensible solution for stranded Canberrans. I am sure that ACT will monitor their quarantine for 14 days for their health & the safety of the rest of us.

Sher Bee Sher Bee 4:51 pm 08 Aug 20

Glad everyone can get home. Please consider getting tested to be totally sure and safe. the ACT oasis is a lucky place to live 🥰

Steve Liebeck Steve Liebeck 4:41 pm 08 Aug 20

Yes they will have to

Tania Shaw Tania Shaw 4:38 pm 08 Aug 20

That is great news, the handling of this by Sydney leaves a lot to ne desired. I know they are trying to protect their communities but putting people at greater risk returning home is not the way to do it.

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