Woman and Dying Sister Separated by Travel Restrictions Reunite for First Time in 6 Years
Christine Archer applied for a travel exemption five times before Australia let her enter the country to see her terminally ill sister
Six years and four rejected travel applications later, a pair of sisters were finally reunited in Australia on Wednesday, about two months after one was diagnosed with terminal cancer amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Christine Archer lives in New Zealand, a country that said it has eliminated the coronavirus, according to Australian Broadcasting Corp.
But when her sister Gail Baker was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer in Australia and given just months to live in March, she knew she had to make the trek so they could spend what precious time Baker had left together.
Unfortunately for the separated sisters, Australia had closed its borders to help stop the spread of the virus — and Archer’s first four travel exemption applications were rejected, according to the outlet.
“I didn’t think I was ever going to see Gail again,” Archer told the Associated Press. “That would’ve been the worst thing in the world if that had happened.”
Baker, too, had little faith that her older sister would make it, despite the fact that a reunion at home was her final hope.
“That is my dying wish, and that’s why I couldn’t wait to get out of the hospital, because I thought I was going to die in there,” she told ABC. “I didn’t have much hope [Christine] would be let into the country… At the time, I honestly didn’t think I would last a week or two. I was very ill.”
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Luckily for the sisters, Archer’s persistence paid off, and her fifth exemption application was granted by the Department of Home Affairs on May 1, according to ABC, something Baker called a “huge relief.”
Archer reportedly flew into Sydney, and after quarantining herself in a hotel and testing negative for the virus, drove 300 miles to her sister’s home in Bowraville, New South Wales.
The hug they shared in Baker’s front yard on Wednesday was the first time they’d seen each other in six years, the AP reported.
“Words can’t explain how I feel. I’m just so happy that I finally got to be here and be with her,” Archer told ABC. “The last two weeks have been the hardest, or longest, two weeks of my life.”
Together, the sisters will spend time together with Baker’s dogs and her daughter, Erica Peterson, who said she felt it was important the government be compassionate in allowing travel for extenuating circumstances.
“If somebody is dying or if there is some exceptional circumstance, please let people’s families be with them,” she told ABC.
According to the government, Australia’s borders are closed, and only citizens, residents and immediate family members are able to travel to the country. Anyone coming in from a different country must be quarantined for 14 days as of March 29.
Applications to enter the country on medical or compassionate grounds will be considered on a case-by-case basis by relevant states or territories.
New Zealand has had at least 1,503 cases and 21 deaths attributed to coronavirus, according to The New York Times. The country’s Ministry of Health said Thursday that for the fourth day in a row, there were no new cases of COVID-19.
Australia, meanwhile, has seen at least 7,081 cases and 100 deaths, according to the Times.
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