An Australian couple has been forced from COVID-wracked London to a frozen Texas in a desperate attempt to find a way home through a tangle of international pandemic travel restrictions.
What started as a patient wait to return home to Swan Hill, Victoria, has turned into a “cruel” experience for Sarah Reynolds-Ryan and husband Jackson, some of the thousands of Australians stranded overseas since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
They were due to arrive in Melbourne from the United Kingdom on Monday after booking tickets two months ago, quitting jobs and giving up their flat.
But Victoria’s snap five-day coronavirus lockdown meant flights to Victoria were cancelled and Qatar Airways offered no immediate alternative destinations in Australia.
Ms Reynolds-Ryan said the next flight to Australia with any airline was to Brisbane on April 5.
“We just couldn’t wait that long,” Ms Reynolds-Ryan said.
“When we booked tickets [after international flights to Victoria reopened in December], we handed in our notice for our jobs and our flat. We started packing up our lives and selling things off.
With no options to return to Australia and no home or work in the UK, Ms Reynolds-Ryan, a dual US citizen, opted to fly with her partner to the US to stay with an aunt in Denton, Texas.
They are now riding out a storm emergency that has sent temperatures plummeting across the US and living without health care in a state that has recorded 2.58 million cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
Ms Reynolds-Ryan said she hoped there would be more frequent flights to Australia from the US, which has not yet recorded large numbers of the more contagious UK variant of COVID-19.
“Our plan is to be in Texas until we can get home, but my husband is here on a three-month ESTA visa, so the clock is really ticking,” she said.
Ms Reynolds-Ryan said she was also concerned about vaccines becoming mandatory for travellers on US airlines.
She said her husband could face an extensive wait to receive a vaccine because, as an Australian, US citizens would take priority.
“We just want to come home,” she said.
Ms Reynolds-Ryan said the duo, who moved to London to live and work in mid-2019, first started trying to get home at the start of the pandemic in March as international flights were cancelled.
She said a lack of assistance from the federal government had been “draining and demoralising”.
“As citizens, we feel abandoned by the government,” she said.
“Of course we support the quarantine system — the government has to protect its citizens from COVID-19.
“But we’re Victorians too. I think the lack of options for arrivals is over the top and unnecessarily cruel.”
Sarah’s mother Laura Ryan, who owns a Swan Hill hotel, said it was heartbreaking to be separated from her daughter in the middle of a global crisis.
“We just feel really let down,” she said.
“Could we not have diverted flights? Could we not have said that people who had flights during the five-day [lockdown] would be allowed to land and go into a stricter quarantine?
Announcing the five-day lockdown last week, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews said there needed to be a “cold, hard discussion” about the number of people coming into Australia as the number of more contagious UK and South African variants of COVID-19 cases grows.
“It’s not for me to make announcements about how many Australians get to come back to Australia,” he said.
“That’s for the federal government. What I’m saying is the game has changed
“Should it be a much smaller program that’s based on compassionate grounds? That’s a conversation we should have.”
The state and federal governments were contacted for further comment.
Ms Reynolds-Ryan said she was worried by Mr Andrews’s comments.
“We’re worried about the idea of us having to apply to come home on compassionate grounds,” Ms Reynolds-Ryan said.
“We’ve emailed the embassy and DFAT a number of times and gotten no response.
“The vulnerable are already not being prioritised in any way.”
Thank you for visiting My Local Pages and reading this news article regarding “What’s On in the Mildura to Swan Hill Region titled “From UK COVID hotspot to Texas ice storm, desperate Australian couple scrambles to find a way home”. This news release was posted by My Local Pages Australia as part of our VIC current news services.
#COVID #hotspot #Texas #ice #storm #desperate #Australian #couple #scrambles #find #home