A young traveller who spent New Year’s Day trapped in a mad traffic dash has spoken of his frantic efforts to cross the Victorian border from New South Wales before midnight.
After midnight the border rules change to force those entering from NSW into two weeks mandatory hotel quarantine – although comfort has been offered to motorists stuck in the queue.
‘Anybody in the queue at that time will be allowed to go through – but that does not extend to people tomorrow morning,’ Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Jeroen Weimar on Friday said.
One man trying desperately to get back over the border is Melbourne resident Reid Gough.
Melbourne resident Reid Gough (right) with his mother Lisa. Reid went to Lismore, NSW for a family Christmas but spent New Year’s Eve desperately driving for the Victorian border
Pictured: Mr Gough’s family Christmas. It was his first in two years. Reid is pictured second from left. Lismore was not a coronavirus hotspot but Victoria has shut the border to all of NSW
Mr Gough suffered months of lockdown in Victoria and lost his job because of the pandemic.
He spent five months on JobSeeker and had only just found another position shortly before Christmas.
Things were looking up in early December however, with Victoria and New South Wales free from lockdowns – and a new job to celebrate.
So Mr Gough made plans to visit his mum, Lisa, for Christmas and New Year at the family home in Lismore on the NSW mid-north Coast.
Mr Gough (pictured) spent New Year’s Eve driving to the border, desperate to make it over so he doesn’t lose his job. He spent five months on Job Seeker during the pandemic already
The 25-year-old hadn’t been home for Christmas in two years and was looking forward to seeing his parents, so he left his home in Melbourne’s trendy inner suburb of Northcote and made the journey north.
Lismore had not been a coronavirus hotspot but the family were keeping a close eye on the border.
They were, however, blindsided on New Year’s Eve when Acting Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan announced the state would close its border to all of NSW from January 2 because of an increase in case numbers, after 10 new infections were confirmed on Thursday.
Mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine would spell disaster for Mr Gough who could risk losing his job and devastating his finances, even though he hasn’t been in a coronavirus-hit area.
Mr Gough immediately threw his things in the car and hit the road on a drive of more than 13 hours to try to make it over the border before it shut.
‘We dropped everything,’ his mother, Lisa Gough told The Northern Star.
‘We thought we were in a green zone because we were away from Greater Sydney and he had avoided the area driving.’
Mr Gough left the family home at 5.30pm on New Year’s Eve stopping for the night at Armidale and hit the road early in the morning.
Police patrol the snaking queue at the NSW-Victorian border on December 31 at Mallacoota
As of 7pm on Friday night, Ms Gough told Daily Mail Australia her son had made it to an hour from the border at Albury.
‘The worst thing is he has to drive through to Melbourne once he crosses (the border) as he has to self-isolate for 14 days,’ she said.
She said she was worried about young people panicking on a long drive in wet weather.
Ms Gough said her son was among six friends from his old Lismore school who were all trying to get back over the border before it shuts for the sake of their jobs.
‘He joked it was a memorable New Year’s Eve at least,’ she said.
Hundreds of drivers have faced lengthy queues to get out of NSW before hard border closures. Pictured: Motorists at Coolangatta on the Queensland-NSW border checkpoint, December 21
The Melbourne coronavirus cluster grew to ten on Friday, New Year’s Day. The outbreak is linked to Sydney, but Victoria is taking no chances and has shut the border to all of NSW
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian reignited another war of words over border closures, on Friday with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews as lengthy car queues snaked at the border.
‘I don’t think at this stage closing the border between NSW and Victoria is a good use of resources,’ Ms Berejiklian told reporters on Friday.
‘I think we’re better off asking the community to come forward to get tested, cutting off those chains of transmission, making sure everybody has enough information about venues and about COVID safe activities.’
Her words fell on deaf ears, as Victoria – which suffered the worst outbreak in the nation which it only managed to break with crushing lockdowns lasting months – was taking no chances.
Victoria’s cluster, sparked by an infected person from NSW, grew to 10 in the last 48 hours, prompting the border closure, while the outbreak in Sydney grew to 173 cases on Friday.
COVID TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS FOR NEW SOUTH WALES
- Western Australia – All NSW residents are banned from entering WA. Anyone who enters the state will be ‘sent back’, according to Premier Mark McGowan.
- Victoria – A hard border has been put up, with the entire state of NSW declared a red zone. If people cross into Victoria before 11.59pm on New Year’s Eve, they must self- isolate until they test negative. If they enter before 11.59pm on New Year’s Day, they must self-isolate for 14 days regardless of test results. If they cross into the state after January 1, they must spend two weeks in mandatory hotel quarantine.
- Northern Territory – The state has declared greater metropolitan Sydney as a Covid-19 hotspot, and travellers will need to undergo 14 days of supervised quarantine.
- South Australia – Harder border closure to all NSW residents from midnight on New Year’s Eve. Returning South Australians must quarantine for 14 days. A 100km border buffer zone, including Broken Hill and Wentworth, will be exempt.
- Queensland – Queensland has shut its borders to Greater Sydney, Wollongong and the Central Coast. Locals returning to the Sunshine State from a hotspot must isolate.
- ACT – Anyone who has been in Greater Sydney, the Central Coast or Wollongong must quarantine for 14 days in a government facility.
- Tasmania – Northern Beaches residents banned. All people from Greater Sydney must also quarantine upon entry.