As COVID-19 continues to plunge Victoria deeper into crisis, Member for Morwell Russell Northe has called upon State Governments to urgently overhaul the interstate travel exemption process applicable to persons seeking to say goodbye to a loved one or attend a funeral.
“I have been contacted by a number of local families who have endured just awful experiences including not being able to spend time with a loved one who are near the end of their life in an interstate jurisdiction” Mr Northe began.
“I completely understand that strong COVID-19 protocols are in place for the purposes to stop the spread of the virus and to minimise the movement of people but if there ever were exceptional circumstances then surely it is in palliative care and funeral arrangements”, Mr Northe said.
“The process in place now appears rigid and even cruel as it is preventing people from being with loved ones during palliative care. The system seems bereft of compassion and it is essentially robbing people of their only chance to be surrounded by their nearest and dearest during their final breaths, which is a source of tremendous grief for many families”.
Mr Northe today confirmed that his office has been contacted by several families who have been unable to gain exemptions for travel for compassionate purposes. Unfortunately, this means that local families have endured losing a loved one from afar and been completely devoid of the opportunity to say their final goodbyes.
“Surely there can be a better mechanism and system in place and improved arrangements between the States that gives regard and compassion for families in these circumstances – there should be in my opinion a separate process and oversight in place for persons contending with palliative care and/or funerals” Mr Northe said.
“I’m not suggesting that an extended network of family members be able to travel but conversely I do believe that being with a mother, father, daughter, son, sister or brother at such a traumatic time is fair and just” Mr Northe said.
“My understanding the whole exemption process takes time, is complex and even if granted onerous conditions including extensive quarantine and costs exist that makes it extremely difficult if not impossible for people to travel” Mr Northe said.
“To be denied access to a loved one in their final stages of life I think is just cruel and the emotional toll it has taken on individuals and family members is really distressing” Mr Northe said.
“Think of those whose family members have been diagnosed or fallen ill rapidly during this COVID-19 event – they’ve had no opportunity to visit and essentially process their grief. I find it disgusting that some persons who have deliberately flouted COVID interstate laws have now because of their actions made it nigh impossible for genuine persons wishing to say their final goodbye to a loved one”.
“I’ll be honest, my heart breaks for these families. They have forever been robbed of the chance to say final goodbyes. They can’t grieve in the normal way. It’s just horrific”.
“The COVID-19 crisis has stopped us from doing so many things – I don’t think final goodbyes should be one of them” Mr Northe concluded.