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A Northern NSW couple separated by Western Australia’s harsh border closure is demanding action from the state’s premier, as they prepare to spend their first “difficult” Christmas apart.
Sam Jones was forced to choose between seeing his family in Murwillumbah and running his bricklaying business in Western Australia when the NSW Covid crisis escalated in late June.
It’s been 16 weeks and counting since the fully vaccinated fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) worker has seen his wife Nicole and their three daughters.
It’s the longest time the couple has spent apart from each other in almost 20 years of marriage.
And with no signs of borders opening up, the relentless uncertainty is taking a “horrendous emotional toll”.
“It’s been really difficult. If we had a date, it would really help,” Nicole told Yahoo News.
“We don’t know if he will be home for Christmas. It’s really stressful for our family. We miss him so much.
“It will be pretty sad if there are borders imposed,” Sam added.
Sacrifices amid border closure
Sam had to make the hard sacrifice of being stranded on the opposite side of the country to his family in order to keep his income and the jobs of four others that he employs.
“They need me on site for their day-to-day work so I can’t just leave them,” he said.
“There is so much frustration and uncertainty. It’s hard to be away from the family but it’s also frustrating when there’s some tools we can use to open borders to FIFO workers but we’re not using them.”
Calls for borders to reopen
Premier Mark McGowan slammed WA's border shut to NSW in June when the first Bondi cluster broke out.
Pressure is mounting on him to explain how he plans to reopen to the rest of Australia as other states learn to live with Covid.
“They need to get their policy straight now. I don't think closing borders flies anymore,” Sam said.
With thousands of other families in the same situation, the couple is urging the WA government to consider solutions such as rolling out rapid antigen testing for fly-in, fly-out workers.
“It could mean a big reduction in heartache,” Sam said.
“They need to balance the risk of Covid with effects on families who are here for work, not necessarily holidays.”
“Other states are working toward solutions, it’s time for WA to do the same,” Nicole added.
WA Premier says border likely to be opened next year
Mr McGowan on Thursday told reporters Covid restrictions would likely be reimposed across the state once the borders reopened to "infected states" in 2022.
"We expect that as we open up to infected states next year then we will have to put in place some public health safety measures," he said.
"It may well be for some venues that you attend, there are capacity limits, that may well be concerts, football, major sporting events like that.
"It may be that in some locations, particularly crowds, there's a requirement to wear masks but we haven't refined that detail as yet.
"What we've got to do in the meantime is get people vaccinated as heavily as we can whilst we get to that point."
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