Travellers from Sydney were greeted by rows of authorised officers and nurses at Melbourne Airport on Saturday morning, gowned up and wearing full personal protective equipment, asking to see permits. Testing stations at the airport were not operating in time for the day’s earliest flights.
Victoria recorded two new coronavirus cases in hotel quarantine on Saturday, but the run of no local transmission continued for the 50th day in a row. Sydney’s northern beaches coronavirus outbreak is now at 41 cases.
Sydneysider Edwina Rouse flew into Melbourne Saturday morning, along with her four children. She was determined to see her family; the Christmas presents had already arrived in Melbourne.
“We kind of ummed and ahhed about coming, I’ve had two hours’ sleep,” Mrs Rouse said.
“But if we had left yesterday, it would have been no problem. But we live in an orange zone in Sydney … My husband may not even be able to make it on Thursday.
“Common sense would have been not to come. But that pull to see family, and provide them with support… Plus all the Christmas presents are down here! I already sent them.”
A police helicopter was seen hovering near the airport’s car park for 30 minutes on Saturday morning. Victoria Police said the air wing was not completing any jobs at the time.
The website issuing Victorian permits was down at noon on Saturday, with travellers reporting the difficulties of getting the site to load earlier in the day.
For some, Saturday marked an urgent, but long-awaited homecoming. Maddy Fraser hadn’t seen her sister Emily for more than a year, embracing as soon as they met at the baggage claim.
Ms Fraser moved her flight forward a few days hoping the borders wouldn’t close before she landed in Victoria. Most available flights between Sydney and Melbourne had sold out, and some Friday tickets were being hawked online for $1500.
“I work in the city, there were a few known cases close to me, which thankfully hasn’t restricted anyone at the moment. I thought I just needed to get here as soon as possible because it looks like greater Sydney will be locked down.”
Jason Hawkins was up in Sydney with his sons Felix and Hudson, visiting his wife Louise’s family for the first time in 2020.
They only got two days into their holiday before they were forced to reassess whether it was safe to stay in NSW.
“We were on the Central Coast for two days, then everything turned,” Mr Hawkins said.
“Yesterday was the most stressful day, just full of anxiety. We were faced with the decision: do we head back? Do we stay? Then when we decided, flights were all booked out. We tossed up driving … but we decided to jump on one of the first flights out in the morning and just pray to God the area we were in didn’t turn into a red zone.
“Just after what we’ve been through in Melbourne, we couldn’t risk being locked up. There was no way in hell I was doing hotel quarantine with two kids.”
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Ashleigh McMillan is a breaking news reporter at The Age. Got a story? Email me at email@example.com