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.
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.