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Weekend of holiday travel chaos spills into this week

December 21, 2020 Headline News No Comments

Amid a chaotic weekend for domestic travellers, following an outbreak of Covid-19 in Sydney and subsequent state border closures, one encouraging point was buried deep in the NSW Health website devoted to the latest coronavirus case locations and alerts.

Under the heading: New Zealand and interstate COVID-19 case locations, the website notes: There are currently no COVID-19 case locations identified interstate or in New Zealand.

In other words, Australia and New Zealand have succeeded in suppressing or eradicating the virus – except for New South Wales, which is battling a new eruption of Covid-19 right now, centred on Sydney’s Northern Beaches region.

Australia’s other states are determined to keep the virus at bay, so they scrambled at the weekend to close borders and enforce quarantine restrictions, a measure that has helped keep outbreaks in Australia under control so far.

While shutting borders may make medical sense, abrupt opening and closing of borders puts a dampener on travel, injecting a big dose of stress into carefree holidays and reunions.

Holidaymakers rushed to cancel accommodation bookings on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Victoria shut its borders to travellers from all of Sydney and the NSW Central Coast – the closure took force from midnight last night. Other states are taking their own decisions about travel from NSW, all of which may fluctuate in coming days and will require travellers and agents to check and double check.

Another Covid casualty: the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race was cancelled at short notice, for the first time since the event was founded 76 years ago. It all adds to a sense of unease and uncertainty – exactly what travel doesn’t need – with travellers unsure of insurance coverage and refund validity if they need to cancel or change travel dates. “Stay at home!” advice from health authorities and state premiers adds to the dismay.

Domestic airports were packed last week. Some travellers faced heartbreaking last-minute decisions. If they flew interstate, border closures might mean quarantine or being stranded. Passengers on Jetstar flight JQ988 from Sydney to Perth received a shock after landing when a Western Australian police inspector boarded and said: “Unfortunately, while your aircraft has been in the air there’s been some changes to our legislation here in WA in relation to quarantining.

“The good news is, and I’ll get straight to that, it’s not 14 days, OK, it’s a one-day quarantine period.

“In that one-day quarantine period, you must be Covid-tested, which you can do at the airport on the way through.”

Covid-free Victoria found itself in the weird position of banning travellers from NSW, the reverse situation to that which prevailed a few weeks ago. People entering Victoria from Sydney and NSW Central Coast have to complete 14 days hotel quarantine unless they are returning Victorians who make it home before midnight tonight.

Perth. Jetstar passengers received a rude shock on arrival

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews urged people to avoid travelling.

“If you’re in Sydney, stay in Sydney. If you’re in Melbourne, don’t go to Sydney,” Andrews told a press conference yesterday.

Meanwhile, both NSW and Victoria have moved quickly to tighten rules for aircrew quarantine, confining crew to a couple of hotels, to be monitored by health authorities and police. Up till now, aircrew have been allowed to quarantine at home or at accommodation arranged by their employers. Suspicion persists that was how the virus reached Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Quarantine breaks for celebrities have also been criticised.

The new restrictions on crew accommodation are essential, as the coronavirus threat has suddenly heightened. A mutated coronavirus strain up to 70% more contagious than earlier versions is rampaging across Britain, ruining the Christmas plans of millions and threatening Europe with a major third Covid onslaught. Fortunately, the anti-Covid vaccines work on the new strain, but with weeks or months to go before the vaccines roll out in Australia, nobody wants the new British strain entering Australia in the meantime.

Written by Peter Needham



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