After almost a week in limbo at the NSW-Victoria border, weary and frustrated Canberrans began arriving home in the ACT this afternoon, greeted with a fresh food pack after the three-hour-plus drive from Albury.
The pack, which contained milk, bread, fruit and other essentials will help the returning travellers sustain themselves as they prepare to enter the ACT’s mandatory 14-day COVID-19 quarantine.
Among the first to arrive was Anne Cahill Lambert, who has become the face of the battle which has attracted national media attention.
“I am very embarrassed about the resources that have been put into this when it just should have been a simple process,” she said as she arrived at the police checkpoint off the Barton Highway in Hall.
“I am sorry I look like I have got off my broom because I feel like I have because we have been in a waiting room – a departure lounge – for the past six days.
“I am absolutely relieved [to be back]. Honey is desperate to get out of the car!”
Anne’s RSPCA rescue dog Honey was personally welcomed by a senior police officer in front of a large media pack as they pulled into the police inlet, dubbed Checkpoint Andrew (after the Chief Minister) by the stranded Canberrans.
The media presence at Checkpoint Gladys – otherwise known as the designated stopping point north of Gundagai – was equally as large.
ACT Policing said 17 cars with around 25 people – and one dog – are registered to arrive in the ACT today, the first of four days when Canberra residents have been given permission to travel through NSW between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm only.
More than 40 cars are registered to arrive in the ACT before 3:00 pm on Sunday (16 August).
Chief Minister Andrew Barr – who personally called Anne to welcome her home – reiterated that the ordeal exemplifies the precarious nature of travelling to Victoria at the moment.
“I regret that it has taken this long to resolve this matter [but] we have throughout the process put forward sensible and practical solutions,” he said.
“One thing I can say with absolute certainty is that things will change and they might change on very short notice. It goes to reinforce the point that unnecessary travel to Victoria at this time should not be undertaken. Just do not do it or you might find yourself stranded.
“The second you cross a border and go into another jurisdiction you are subject to the rules of that jurisdiction and so you could find yourself in the same position. Not just this week, but next week, next month and next year possibly as well.”
Vehicles leaving Victoria for the ACT were not able to stop for petrol and were instructed to leave Wodonga for Canberra with a full tank of fuel. They were given clear instructions about what to do when they left Albury and who to contact should any problems arise, NSW Police Hume District Acting Superintendent John Klepczarek said.
“We are dealing with a very co-operative group of people who just want to get home,” he said.