No way home

Gerard MacGill and his wife Michele Dreyfus watch jealously as someone else’s plane flies over on the way home from France. Photo by Arlette Pittsilides.

No income, no health care

A FORMER Fremantle councillor stuck in France due to WA’s border closures has called on the McGowan government to let people quarantine in their own homes with a tracking device so more can be repatriated.

Pressure has been building on premier Mark McGowan to find ways to bring more people back, with the state’s Covid-free status making it some of the hottest real estate around for people hoping to escape global hotspots or return to loved ones.

Earlier this week the premier floated the potential re-opening of Rottnest Island for quarantining, after earlier suggesting he’d accept more in-bound flights if the Commonwealth repurposed its detention centres or army bases.

North Fremantle Community Association president Gerard MacGill said he’d be happy to wear a monitoring bracelet around his ankle if it meant he could come back home even quicker.

The 85-year-old and his wife Michele Dreyfus were in France when their holiday bookings were cancelled in March, and two attempts to fly home failed when their flight bookings were cancelled.

Mr MacGill says they only received a refund for one cancellation, adding to the couple’s stress.

“We have no income, no health care, and no direct contact with family and friends,” he wrote in a letter to Mr McGowan.

Mr MacGill said airlines had been “bumping” economy class passengers to accommodate those from business and first class, turning bookings into “a bidding war favouring the rich”.

Being denied entry placed great emotional, financial and physical stress on the couple, which is being compounded because they can’t get any information on who is being allowed back and on what grounds.

“It should not be up to citizen to prove why they should be allowed to enter, but for the government to prove why they shouldn’t,” Mr MacGill said.

He believes because they’re being kept away from home by virtue of a state edict, the government should take more responsibility for their predicament.

An automated reply from the premier’s office, which Mr MacGill sardonically described as “deeply sensitive” said the WA government was fielding a lot of Covid-19 inquiries, and hand-balled responsibility for international travel to the Morrison federal government.

There was no mention of Mr McGowan’s role in pleading with prime minister Scott Morrison to reduce international flights into WA back in June. At the time Mr McGowan cited concerns that more arrivals would put pressure on the state’s quarantine hotels and security arrangements.

The premier’s office said the state’s “secure and safe” hotel quarantining had worked well keeping Covid-19 out of WA.

“Tracking devices alone for home quarantine are not an effective tool, as they do not account for people who may visit the quarantining person,” a statement to the Herald said.

“The state emergency coordinator determines who shold be deemed high risk and have a tracking device applied.

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