They’re less than two hours from home but John and Heather Piper have not been able to walk through their front door for five months.
John and Heather Piper are less than two hours from home, yet they haven’t been able to walk through their front door for months.
The Queensland couple have been living in a tent at the NSW border since winter, blocked from driving back to the Sunshine State after the hard closure of the border in early August.
They’re just two of many Queenslanders itching to get home when the state fully reopens to vaccinated visitors on December 17, having been on the wrong side at the wrong time when Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk decided the risk of Covid transmission from NSW was too great.
“We’ve gone through the whole lot of the wash on the internet. We’ve done exemptions and tried everything. Rung them up but nothing prevails. You just get the feeling that nobody cares,” Mr Piper told ABC News Breakfast on Tuesday.
“I’ll tell you – if it wasn’t for some social media sites, mental health is a real issue.”
The first returning Queenslanders – and residents relocating from NSW and Victoria – began arriving in Brisbane via air on Monday after the border’s partial reopening at 5pm.
The new rules come after the state hit the 70 per cent double-vax milestone at the weekend.
Queensland’s state disaster co-ordinator, Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski, said 30 people arrived on Monday and another 598 would touch down in the coming days, with the number of applications expected to climb.
Fully vaccinated people are allowed fly into the state’s southeast if they have returned a negative Covid test within 72 hours, though they must then quarantine in a home for 14 days.
But there is still no way back over for people and their vehicles without booking into two weeks of hotel quarantine at their own expense.
Both the Pipers are double-vaxxed – and have been for some time – and they have also been careful not to mix with the wider northern NSW community.
The couple said they’d met several other people in similar situations.
“We’ve been trying to do the right things. We don’t socially get out in the community too much. We moved to Ballina because we knew that we were less than two hours drive to our home,” Mr Piper said.
“But still nobody can come up with a logical solution to letting us drive home. One tank of fuel, that’s all it is. Not even that. It’s less hazardous than getting on a plane. But jump in our car and go. Talk to no one. How hard is it?”
Queensland’s tough border stance has kept the state relatively free of Covid as devastating outbreaks swept through NSW and Victoria.
But the strategy has also been criticised for being too rigid and harmful for visitor-reliant businesses.
The state’s quarantine exemption process has also been taken to task over a perceived favouring of sportspeople, celebrities and high-profile cases in the media.
The borders will fully reopen to vaccinated visitors and their vehicles when Queensland hits 80 per cent double vaccinations, tipped to be on or just before December 17.
Ms Palaszczuk has hinted that the target could be reached a week earlier than expected.