For our free coronavirus pandemic coverage, learn more here.
On a Zoom call from her room at the Amora Hotel in Sydney’s CBD, Stephanie Bryan holds a fistful of antigen tests she bought before boarding the plane at Heathrow up to the screen.
She has been taking the tests during her five days of quarantine in a city she only intended to transit through on her way to visit her 83-year-old mother, Sylvia, who is in her final days of a lung cancer battle.
Like Mark Kilian, the US man who until Wednesday night had been struggling to visit his dying father in similar circumstances, Ms Bryan was granted an exemption by the federal government to travel to Australia on compassionate grounds but is stuck in Sydney after Queensland Health said she could not travel to Brisbane on a charter flight before her 14-day quarantine period ended.
“I am fully vaccinated, I have had two negative PCR tests and five negative antigen tests,” she said.
NSW Health can not grant an exemption to the travellers and discharge them from quarantine until Queensland Health gives its approval.
“I had no choice but to get into another state, and I saw there was a form that said under exceptional circumstances arrangements could be made to move to another state in quarantine,” Ms Bryan said.
“Given that I’ve flown from the other side of the world, I thought this was an exceptional circumstance. I’d pay someone $2000 to drive me there, I just want to see her.”
Ms Bryan’s sister, Lesley Lodge, who is in Brisbane said Queensland Health had rejected four requests from the family to have her transferred to Queensland quarantine.
Mark Kilian and his wife Anneli Gerricke, who are vaccinated against COVID-19, have been in hotel quarantine in Sydney since they flew from Los Angeles last Tuesday to visit Mr Kilian’s dying father Frans Kilian, 80, who is suffering from pancreatic cancer.
On Wednesday night, Queensland Health issued a statement confirming it had issued an exemption for Mr Kilian and his partner to visit his father and it was finalising the arrangements of the transfer with NSW.
Mr Kilian said his father teared up when he told him the news.
“He doesn’t have much energy to be excited, but we could tell he was teary and really happy,” he said.
“The next thing he said was ‘well, let’s hope this helps other people in the same position’.
“I’ve never been so happy to be able to be sad.
“It’s good news but at the same time it’s a horrible thing we’re going there to do.“
He said Queensland Health told the couple they had been granted an exemption and authorities would facilitate day visits from hotel quarantine to Robina Hospital, where Frans remains.
“It’s just the right thing to do, to be compassionate,” he said.
The exact plans for the trip from NSW to the hospital were still being decided on Wednesday night, but a private plane organised by the couple will be used.
Before receiving the exemption, Mr Kilian said his father’s health had been deteriorating, and he was barely able to speak, saying the past eight days in quarantine were wasted.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier said in a letter to Mr Kilian on Tuesday that it was “disappointing” Queensland health authorities have not yet found a workable solution but it was a matter for the state government.
“I know what an important time this is for you and that you can never get these days back,” the letter read.
with Jocelyn Garcia
Stay across the most crucial developments related to the pandemic with the Coronavirus Update. Sign up to receive the weekly newsletter.
Matt is a reporter with Brisbane Times, covering city council and urban affairs.