‘It’s just so difficult’: Victorians face tough choices as NSW border tightens

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Melbourne mother Natalie Dunlop went to bed on Thursday night thinking she would soon get to see her husband and one-year-old son after several days apart.

But she woke on Friday morning to learn that the Central Coast area of NSW, where her husband had travelled to help his mother while his father is in hospital, had been declared a red zone by Victorian authorities overnight.

Authorised officers check the identification of passengers arriving at Melbourne Airport on Thursday.Credit:Nine News

Now, she is one of many Victorians trying to navigate rapidly changing border arrangements as the Sydney outbreak grows.

Shellharbour, the Central Coast, Blue Mountains and Wollongong – previously green zones – were added to the list of Victorian red zones late on Thursday night, which already included Greater Sydney.

The health department also backdated the advice for people wishing to return from the Central Coast, Shellharbour, Blue Mountains and Wollongong. Anyone who has been in those regions since June 11 is now considered to have visited an orange zone and needs to get tested and isolate until they receive a negative result.

Victorians who are in red zones are allowed to return home by applying for a red-zone permit and then must isolate at home for 14 days.

While Ms Dunlop’s husband could return to Victoria if he was granted a red-zone permit, he would not be allowed to stop on the drive home, which Ms Dunlop said was impossible with a toddler.

If he flies, the family will have no car in Melbourne, making it difficult for Ms Dunlop to attend her treatment sessions for cancer, which she was diagnosed with last year.

“If we had known the Central Coast was going to be red, he could have at least driven to the border, stayed there overnight and then kept coming home today and he would have been fine and we would have been able to make that decision,” she said.

“It’s just so stressful in terms of how long this is going to go on for, and what decision we make. Do we say they will stay up there until all this blows over and I’m here alone? We want to be together as a family, but if I go to Sydney and can’t come back I can’t do cancer treatment.

“You think through all the different scenarios, maybe we do this or that – it’s just so difficult.”

Health Minister Martin Foley on Friday said that while Victorians who had been in a red zone could return home with a permit, those who have visited a high-risk exposure site in Sydney – those sites that require people to self-isolate for two weeks – are not allowed into Victoria at all, even if they are residents.

“If you’ve been to those high-risk exposure sites [in Sydney], you are required to quarantine for 14 days, and you cannot enter Victoria. Please do not try. Don’t travel to a red zone in NSW, you may not be able to return,” he said.

Meanwhile, other Victorians have decided to remain in NSW rather than return home, opting for Sydney’s lockdown rather than 14 days in home quarantine.

Melbourne accountant Andrew Nicholls, 58, has opted to stay in Sydney as it was preferable to 14 days of home quarantine.

Melbourne accountant Andrew Nicholls, 58, arrived in Sydney on Monday for a business trip.

The 58-year-old, who runs chartered accountants NCS Group and travels to Sydney regularly for work, was staying in the Sydney CBD and is therefore now part of the lockdown, which will begin on Friday night.

While he could apply for a red-zone permit and return to Melbourne, he didn’t want to face 14 days of home quarantine.

“I was meant to leave today but decided to stay a further two to three weeks as I don’t want to quarantine in Melbourne,” he said. “I thought rather than sitting in Melbourne lockdown for 14 days … I might as well stay up here and do their more lenient lockdown.

“You’re putting your own family at risk as well … they’re all concerned for me and obviously they have concerns they may catch something if I come home.”

He said the last 18 months have been “terrible” in terms of business travel and making future plans.

“You can’t move around knowing that things are going to be OK,” he said.

The latest travel information for Victorians can be found here.

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