‘We have nowhere to go’: Heartache as WA border stays shut

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After months of preparation, and a date finally set for the reopening of Western Australia’s border, Melanie Davie and her young family had packed up their lives and were ready to make the move interstate.

But with the settlement of their Sydney home just days away, primary-school-aged children enrolled in school, and their car already in transit to WA, they have been left in limbo by the sudden change to the state’s border plan.

Melanie and Richard Davie, with their children Liam, 8, and six-year-old Lucy at their Penshurst home.Credit:Flavio Brancaleone

“We’re just in disbelief,” Ms Davie said. “We’ve got nowhere to go.”

WA Premier Mark McGowan announced on Thursday night that the February 5 reopening date would be put on hold indefinitely. He said it would be “reckless and irresponsible” to open the borders due to the threat of the Omicron wave affecting the rest of the country.

The Premier suggested a third vaccine dose target of 80 to 90 per cent would be required before WA would reconsider reopening to the rest of the world.

“Omicron is a whole new ball game, it is a new state of emergency,” Mr McGowan said.

Sydney man Sean Matthews is desperate to get to Perth to see his father, Joe, who has a deadly and incurable lung disease called pulmonary fibrosis.

Sean Matthews with his father Joe, who lives in Perth and has an incurable lung disease.

Mr Matthews had flights booked for February 5 to visit his father, who relocated to Perth from Ireland in 2020, and is devastated he can’t see him after being separated since 2018.

“I was outraged and sad [when I heard the news this morning],” he said.

“I still can’t fly within this country – it’s madness. Especially after I’ve taken all the necessary precautions.”

Mr Matthews says he’s very close to his father and being separated from him during his serious illness has taken a heavy toll.

WA Premier Mark McGowan announced the state’s February 5 reopening date would be put on hold. Credit:Peter de Kruijff

A Sydney man whose 10-year-old son lives in Perth said he broke down in tears when Mr McGowan made the announcement on Thursday night.

The man, who has not been named to protect his son’s identity, has shared custody that requires him to travel regularly to Western Australia, after his son moved to Perth with his mother several years ago.

However, since July, the man has not been able to see his son after the state stopped granting him exemptions to travel.

“Yesterday I made my booking to fly over and I told my son ‘guess what, I’m coming’,” the man said.

“Now I’m not too sure how to break it to my son today that I’m not. We are losing time with children we will never get back.”

Mr McGowan said the eligibility for exemptions to enter the state would be extended to compassionate reasons, for WA residents, and for people with strong family ties to the jurisdiction.

People with exemptions will still be required to complete 14 days’ quarantine.

But Ms Davie said it was not clear whether the family would be eligible for the exemption as they were not yet WA residents and had no family in the state.

“I would have at least thought that anyone who’s ready to do the isolation should be allowed to go in,” she said.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said he believed the stronger health system in NSW and the eastern states had enabled the rest of the nation to live with COVID-19.

“I know today that many people in NSW are hurting – that many people have shed tears today – because they haven’t been able to be reunited with their families as a result of that decision,” he said.

However, federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese backed WA’s decision to keep its borders shut.

“Mark McGowan has always made the right call based upon health advice. And I support Mark McGowan’s decision,” he said.

“It is a difficult decision. I was intending to go to Western Australia on the fifth of February. And I know for many people, they were keen to go to visit loved ones. But the first priority of Mark McGowan has been to keep Western Australians safe.”

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