A woman has tearfully embraced her dying sister in Australia after weeks of bureaucratic wrangling over COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions.
Australia had rejected Christine Archer’s request for permission to fly from New Zealand four times before her story attracted media attention.
Her only sister, Gail Baker, was diagnosed with incurable ovarian cancer in late March after both countries stopped international travel. Baker has perhaps weeks to live.
Photo: AP / Australian Broadcasting Corp
Archer was eventually allowed to fly to Sydney and spent only a week in hotel quarantine before testing negative for the novel coronavirus. International travelers are usually quarantined for two weeks.
Family friends drove the retired nurse 490km from Sydney to the New South Wales coastal town of Bowraville.
Archer on Wednesday finally hugged her younger sibling in the front yard of Baker’s home. It was their first reunion in six years.
“Words can’t explain how I feel, to be honest.” Archer told Australian Broadcasting Corp in an interview that aired yesterday.
“I’m just so happy that I finally got to be here and be with her. The last two weeks have been the hardest or the longest two weeks of my life,” Archer said.
Archer was surprised that her persistence paid off, but she was adamant that Australia made the right decision in allowing her to remain with her sister in her final days.
“I wondered whether the Australian government had any compassion at all with their rejections,” Archer said.
“I honestly don’t know what they were thinking. I know it’s an awful time at the moment with the virus ... but, I mean, there are some things you’ve got to be a bit lenient on and I felt this was one of them,” she said.
“I didn’t think I was ever going to see Gail again. That would’ve been the worst thing in the world if that had happened,” she added.
The Australian Department of Home Affairs relented on Archer’s travel application after it allowed the New Zealand Warriors rugby league team to relocate from Auckland in preparation for competition restarting next week.
The department did not immediately respond to a request for an explanation for the change of heart on the sisters’ reunion.
New Zealand has largely succeeded in its goal of eliminating the coronavirus. It has reported no new infections over the past four days and most of the people who contracted the coronavirus have recovered.
About 1,500 people have been reported as having the coronavirus, including 21 who died.
Australia has had similar success in slowing the coronavirus’ spread, although New South Wales remains the worst-affected state.
Australia expects New Zealand to become the first international destination with which regular passenger travel will resume because of the low risk of infection.
Australia has recorded 7,079 COVID-19 cases and 100 deaths. Australia’s population is five times larger than that of New Zealand.
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