Thousands of travellers have fled NSW as states and territories prepare to lock out the state’s residents in the wake of Sydney’s growing coronavirus outbreak.
NSW recorded another 30 confirmed COVID-19 cases yesterday, with 28 of those cases already linked to the Avalon cluster.
The ACT joined the chorus, with Canberrans advised not to travel to the Northern Beaches, while Western Australia reinstated its hard border with NSW on Saturday night.
Airlines have received panicked calls from customers in Sydney desperate to change their travel plans and return to their home states.
More than 200,000 permits to travel to Victoria have been granted with well over 3000 passengers arriving from Sydney at Melbourne Airport on Saturday.
9News understands airlines are monitoring the demand for flights, with the potential for more flights to be added today.
“I flew out last night and back this morning so we’ve changed our whole Christmas plans,” Queensland traveller Danica Hammond told 9News.
Ms Hammond was on board one of nine flights scheduled to touch down in Queensland from Sydney last night. Two of these scheduled flights had been cancelled hours before take off.
“You have to put your border pass out twice and then get your temperature checked again,” traveller Chloe Hearne told 9News.
“I was always coming home, I just moved it forward a day, just in case.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday called for calm as NSW addresses the cluster.
“Everyone’s working together,” Mr Morrison said in a video statement.
“We’re working the problem to get on top of it to ensure that we can return to as normal a COVID situation as we can as soon as possible.”
Victoria Police will monitor 13 vehicle checkpoints and the state government has asked the ADF for help too.
“There will be queues,” ADF Testing Commander Jeroen Weimar told 9News.
“As we set up the checkpoints from midnight tonight people should expect significant delays.”
Four border checkpoints were reinstated in South Australia last night to ensure border the rules aren’t breached.
For some, the delays are the least of their concerns with the border changes leaving them no choice but to spend this Christmas without family.
Georgia Gilligan was scheduled to fly from South Australia to Sydney on Tuesday to spend Christmas with her family, the first time she would have seen them in seven months.
“I just started crying and then called my mum,” Ms Gilligan told 9News after hearing the border closure news.
“I’m really upset, I’m really distraught. I’ve been longing to go home, it’s been a really tough year.”
In Western Australia yesterday, masked passengers arrived at Perth airport single file with heavy security and spaced out luggage.
“It’s a bit hard because obviously after not seeing your mum all year you want to give her a hug,” traveller, Ella McClure, told 9News.
The 17-year-old’s approved GTG pass was revoked just hours before the state’s hard border came into effect at midnight.
A last-minute approval from police meant she could travel to WA.
“It is going to be a socially distant Christmas but we’re fortunate enough to be together,” Ella’s mother, Sarah, told 9News.
The hard border has decimated the number of arrivals to the state. Last week 550 passengers arrived from Sydney on three flights.
Yesterday, just 230 passengers from Sydney spread across five flights.
“It’s happened while I’ve been in the air and I’ve turned on my phone and my friends are saying ‘I hope you can get back in time’. So, it just made me feel sick,” one traveller in Perth said.
“I nearly burst into tears and turned around and went home. But my whole family is there, I haven’t seen them in 12 months,” another passenger told 9News.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the suspected overseas traveller who arrived in Australia on December 1 was carrying a similar strain of the virus that genomic sequencing was also showing in the Avalon COVID-19 cases.
But a connection between that traveller and the Avalon cases was yet to be established, he said.
“The only missing link here at the moment is who was the original source of that overseas virus,” he said.
“We know that the genomic sequencing has indicated that that person had a genomic sequence very close to the cases that were occurring in Avalon. But we don’t know how we got there, that is the issue.”