NSW-Victoria border closure leaves people racing to find a way back home before enforced quarantine

It took just one news notification to wreck the night Stella McNab had been waiting months for.

The 21-year-old Melbourne student caught a train to Wagga Wagga on Wednesday, to spend the new year with her best friend.

The pair had not seen each other since March when lockdowns first began.

After a year of isolation and loneliness, separated from her family who live in regional Victoria, Stella was hoping to send off the year with joy.

Instead, her night was filled with anxiety as she became one of many Melburnians holidaying in NSW who had to rush to get back across the border before it closed.

“It’s been a really stressful and precarious time,” she said.

“Because I didn’t drive, I was sort of stuck in limbo and I didn’t feel like I got much of a warning when that notification came through on my phone.”

Thousands of Victorians queued for hours on roads in a bid to get back from New South Wales before midnight to avoid quarantining for 14 days.

After 11:59pm last night they were being turned around at the border, and anyone returning from today is required to go through hotel quarantine for 14 days.

Hotel quarantine ‘not even an option’

Stella McNab knows there’s a chance she won’t see her friends in NSW again for some time.(Supplied: Stella McNab)

Stella scrambled to get travel plans in place so that she could make it back to Melbourne for work.

Aiming to beat the backlog of cars at Albury, she got a lift from her friend Cherie to the border town of Barooga.

Cherie’s mother then picked her up from the border and drove her to Shepparton where she caught a train home.

Stella knew that she could not afford to miss work or pay for hotel quarantine.

“I don’t come from a family where my parents can give me money to do hotel quarantine, that’s not even an option,” she said.

“As a student and a 21-year-old, I don’t have a spare $3,000 that I can just fork out on it.”

She doesn’t think the Victorian Government should have closed the border to COVID-free parts of regional NSW.

“I lived through COVID in Melbourne and it was awful. My family are all from regional Victoria and it’s been months since I’ve seen my friends,” she said.

South Coast residents concerned over COVID cases

Meanwhile people in Bermagui have expressed concern about two positive cases from Victoria who recently travelled to the NSW south coast.

The pair visited the the Great Southern Hotel in Eden on December 30 and Bermi’s Beachside Café in Bermagui on December 31.

It is understood the two cases are connected to Melbourne’s Thai restaurant cluster.

Sydney holiday-maker Trevor said he was sad to hear the news — as Bermagui’s economy and community are still recovering after bushfires 12 months ago.

“Local businesses were really hopeful for a really good January period for this year to make up for it,” he said.

“But unfortunately it’s not going to happen for them.”

Contact tracing is underway for both venues.

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Confusion at Adelaide Airport and SA-NSW border as coronavirus travel restrictions enforced before midnight deadline

There has been mass confusion at Adelaide Airport last night after passengers on inbound flights from Sydney were told to quarantine despite arriving before the South Australian border deadline.

Restrictions are back in place for travellers arriving in SA from New South Wales as concern mounts over Sydney’s coronavirus cluster.

Arrivals into Adelaide Airport from NSW claim they were being told they had to return to Sydney or go into 14 days’ quarantine last night, despite arriving hours before South Australia’s midnight border closure.

Many travellers say they were confused and some say they were left on the tarmac for hours while authorities processed arrivals.

Sowing even more confusion this morning, SA Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Mike Cusack said people who had been in the Greater Sydney area since December 11, or the Central Coast and Wollongong since December 20, should do a 14-day quarantine, backdated to when they left those cities.

“On that basis, you need to undertake a 14-day period of quarantine.”

Just after midnight, South Australia Police issued a statement, saying travellers who arrived from Greater Sydney before midnight do not need to quarantine.

It said that from midnight, all arrivals from the Greater Sydney area, along with the Central Coast and Wollongong, now need to quarantine for two weeks and anyone who has been in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney is now barred from entering the state.

People in quarantine will be tested three times for the virus — on arrival, on day five and on day 12 of quarantine.

People arriving from regional NSW will be required to have a test but do not need to isolate.

Recently removed checkpoints are now back in place at the SA–NSW border, where travellers are also being tested before entering South Australia.

Flights from Adelaide to Sydney were selling for above $1,000.(ABC News: Dean Faulkner)

Conflicting messages at airport

Brinly, who did not want his last name published, was coming home to Adelaide for Christmas to visit family until mid-January.

He told ABC News that 15 people identified as COVID marshals came onto his Virgin Australia flight from Sydney last night, along with about six or seven police officers.


He said they were asking where people were from and if they said Sydney were told they would have to quarantine or fly back.

He was made to book a flight back to Sydney and did so while he waited there.

“I have never ever been to the Northern Beaches in my life and never been to any of those venues,” Brinly said.

“I work from home, so have been home all week mostly.

“She then made me buy a return ticket and made sure I would isolate either in a quarantine hotel [in Adelaide overnight] or in an isolated room [with a] bathroom at a trusted relative’s house.

“I was then told it’s fine to get a Uber to the location, provided I sat in the back row.”

He now has a flight to return to Sydney today.

Another passenger, Holly, was told she needed to stay at a hotel to quarantine or return to Sydney but then after questioning the instructions was eventually allowed to come into Adelaide.

She will get a test today.

“These poor people who were just trying to do the right thing were just treated like second-class citizens in a situation where the information was incorrect,” Holly said.

“When we asked for clarity on that, they couldn’t provide it, so, yeah, a pretty disappointing situation.”

sign at the border between New South Wales and South Australia
Police are at the SA-NSW border checking where people have come from and visited.(ABC Broken Hill: Saskia Mabin)

Incorrect information at border

Michael’s brother and his husband were driving to South Australia for a Christmas gathering.

He said they made a “quick dash” to the border but were told about 8:00pm last night to turn around.

“It’s disappointing and I can understand where police are coming from I guess, but they had come over on the understanding that they could get through to the border if they got there before midnight,” Michael said.

“Then to be told not, it’s an expensive exercise in terms of petrol and accommodation.

Peter said his daughter was “sprinting” for the border from Sydney with her young family and arrived at Pinnaroo at about 7:30pm.

They were told to do 14 days’ quarantine.

“That came as a complete surprise,” he said.

They are now self-isolating at Port Willunga with plans to return to Sydney.

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Grocers fight back against calls for a government enforced business code of conduct

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“We are listening and will continue to work with the industry on a level playing field for all businesses,” Ng’s spokesperson Eleanore Catenaro said in an email.

Food and Consumer Products Canada (FCPC), which represents suppliers, has for several years been the most vocal critic of supplier fees. It has also chastised Walmart’s proposed new fees for having “diabolical timing,” since manufacturers are still struggling with reduced capacity due to safety protocols related to the pandemic.

Walmart Canada says it will charge its vendors more fees as a way of recouping some of the $3.5 billion it plans to spend on upgrading its infrastructure. Photo by Kevin King/Winnipeg Sun/Postmedia Network files

FCPC, which has long advocated for a grocery code of conduct, was one of the signatories of Wednesday’s letter, along with the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, Canadian Federation of Agriculture and Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

“Some of the companies behind this push are amongst the world’s largest,” said Littler at RCC. “Go on the FCPC site and look at their membership. It’s Coca-Cola, it’s Nestlé, it’s Kraft-Heinz, it’s Johnson & Johnson.”

Littler also said supermarkets have operated on thinner margins than growers and food processors, citing 2018 Statistics Canada data that showed margins of 4.4 per cent for wholesale food sellers and 1.6 per cent for supermarkets.

“It’s not surprising that the food processors would like higher profits,” he said, “but it’s not something that we view the government should put its thumb on the scale on behalf of one party in this commercial negotiation.”

FCPC responded on Friday, stressing the code of conduct it is proposing is based on a model used in the United Kingdom, which would specifically address “unfair punitive behaviour” such as significant fines for minor delivery shortfalls, not “costing-related” negotiations between suppliers and grocers.

The move is “aimed at protecting our domestic food production and Canadian jobs,” FCPC spokesperson Anthony Fuchs said in an email. “If left unchecked, we will be faced with an environment in which we have shiny new retail stores but crippled manufacturing in Canada.”

Financial Post

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