IN the six weeks before the border closure I was a frequent flyer to the Wangaratta hospital as a visitor.
I knew the drill.
Queue outside the hospital main entrance from noon - socially-distanced, say you're the nominated visitor for a patient, state your name and try to recall your mobile number and not that of your husband's, pledge to have no COVID symptoms, contact with any cases or having not been within coo-ee of Melbourne or Mitchell Shire, have a temperature check, collect a sticker and sanitise your hands.
It was a thorough process, just as it should be in trying to protect our most vulnerable.
I only saw one near meltdown over the terms and conditions for going into the public hospital amid a coronavirus pandemic. (Only one visitor was allowed for a patient's whole stay for one hour between the hours of noon and 2pm or 5pm and 7pm up until recently.)
A man from northern NSW had wanted to visit his uncle even though he was not the nominated visitor.
I felt for him right up until he launched a stinging rebuke on hospital staff, there and then.
He was not having a bar of COVID-19; it was one, big conspiracy theory in his mind.
"You even got any coronavirus cases in this hospital?" he demanded.
"You even got any cases in Wangaratta? No! This is BS!!
"I'm not leaving until I see my uncle, who do I need to speak to?"
Meanwhile, the socially-distanced queue was growing ever-longer and the visiting hour rapidly-diminishing.
With the same visitor for each patient coming and going around the same time each day, you quickly got to know your new tribe from far and wide.
With the exception of a lovely man visiting his wife of 65 years daily, women made up most of the visitors to the wards.
There was kind of an informal debrief among near-strangers on the walk down the hospital corridor back to the car park.
One woman struggling with the load of being the solo visitor for weeks was beyond relieved to hear about the first easing of restrictions.
Things seemed to get back on a more even keel - in a new-normal sort of way - until the NSW-Victorian border closed on July 8.
Then people living in Albury-Wodonga were no longer allowed to travel more than 50 kilometres beyond their community before the border bubble shrank even further early last week.
Care - palliative aside - was not even a valid reason for travelling across the river let alone outside the zone.
MORE MATERIAL GIRL:
In coronavirus hotspots around Melbourne right now, care remains one of the four valid reasons people can leave their home. For three weeks, Border residents have been locked down harder than many in this pandemic excluding only Melbourne's public housing tower residents.
Since Monday, however, Border zone residents can now travel within the border bubble under a new permit category for care. They can apply for a permit to give or receive care or help to a vulnerable person including personal care, mental health or domestic violence services, and services to victims of crime.
Clearly, this was a glaring omission under the first border restrictions.
Even under the national lockdown over March and April, care was one of four reasons for which people could leave their home.
In coronavirus hotspots around Melbourne right now, care remains one of the four valid reasons people can leave their home.
For three weeks, Border residents have been locked down harder than many in this pandemic excluding only Melbourne's public housing tower residents.
Last week there were no active cases of COVID-19 on the Border, yet residents were not allowed to visit vulnerable people in their family - unless they were dying - just across the river.
Even now Albury residents would need to self-isolate for 14 days after travelling only as far as Wangaratta.
Frustratingly, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has claimed NSW-Victoria does not have a hard border closure and there are plenty of exemptions to cross.
I beg to differ.
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