Mixed messages from authorities have landed a pair of South Australians in quarantine for two weeks after they travelled to New South Wales to be with relatives following a family tragedy.

Key points:

  • Misinformation leads to a quarantine order for a SA couple
  • They received no exemption, despite their compassionate reasons for travel
  • A loophole has allowed another couple to avoid a third time in isolation

On Boxing Day, Deanne Carmody and partner Rob Ellis travelled to Mittagong, which is in a low community transmission zone in New South Wales, to see family.

They were there for less than 48 hours before heading to Queensland on December 28.

Ms Carmody said they stayed in close contact with the authorities while they travelled.

The pair began their journey home on January 2, taking the most direct route as per authorities’ instructions, only stopping in Broken Hill for four hours to rest.

South Australia’s border closed to New South Wales on January 1, but because the pair had left for Queensland before that date, they were advised that they were doing all the right things.

“We drove through to Peterborough, which is in South Australia, and that’s where we slept in the car,” Ms Carmody said.

“At Peterborough, we were stopped at the border, gave our numbers, and were told that we were returning travellers, we did not need to isolate, which we knew before we left.”

Despite taking the most direct route back to SA, Deanne and Rob were still forced into quarantine.(ABC)

The couple travelled home to Mount Gambier the following day and were about to resume their normal lives after returning negative tests for COVID-19.

However, at 9pm on Tuesday night, Ms Carmody received a phone call from the South Australian Police.

“We did everything we were told to do and it still wasn’t the right thing.”

‘It wasn’t a holiday’

Ms Carmody said the news was heartbreaking because they were not travelling for a holiday.

“It was a tragic family circumstance that led us there, it wasn’t a holiday. We would never choose to go on a holiday and travel at this time,” she said.

“And now it’s two weeks of being stuck, through no fault of our own.”

The quarantine period has placed increased pressure on Ms Carmody who wanted to be there for her family when she returned home.

“It’s just heartbreaking, it’s my son’s birthday, my father’s in hospital, my son has to have oncology appointments and an MRI and I can’t be there for any of it,” she said.

Third time ‘unlucky’

Naracoorte resident Eliza Berlage was facing her third stint in quarantine after getting caught in a similar situation.

Ms Berlage and her partner travelled from New South Wales to Victoria on December 29 with the intention to return to South Australia in the new year.

Eliza Berlage quarantining inside SA’s only regional coronavirus medi-hotel at Mount Gambier last year.(Supplied: Eliza Berlage)

“The direction for people to come home from New South Wales came from the South Australian Government on December 31 and we thought, ‘Well, we are fine because we are no longer in New South Wales,'” Ms Berlage said.

“So we spent New Year’s with our family in Victoria because we didn’t think we would need to rush back.”

She applied for a pass to return to South Australia on January 2, however on returning home she was advised she would need to isolate for two weeks.

“If we had have come home from Victoria two days earlier we wouldn’t have had to isolate, but what I don’t understand is how that changes anything as we were still in New South Wales for the same period regardless of when we returned from Victoria.”

Loophole leads to extended travel

Fortunately for Ms Berlage, after returning home to Penola, she became aware of a loophole, which would allow them to return to Victoria and avoid having to do two weeks of quarantine in South Australia.

Rather than spending more time in quarantine, Tully McCart and Eliza Berlage were able to go camping in regional Victoria.(Supplied: Eliza Berlage)

“We realised we could go back to Victoria and live out those excess days of being out of New South Wales and still travel around the state of Victoria,” she said.

So after two days at home packing the bags, Ms Berlage and her partner are now enjoying a holiday on the Great Ocean Road.

“It beats isolation,” she said.