A Tasmanian health worker stranded in the United Kingdom is pleading with the state and federal governments to raise the cap on international arrivals so she can return home to be with her family.
Lilydale-born Sarah Kolodziej, 28, has been working as an occupational therapist at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neuro-surgery in London during the COVID-19 pandemic, seeing first-hand the devastating impact of the coronavirus.
She has written to both the Tasmanian and federal governments, urging them to heed the calls for help from Australian nationals trapped overseas as a result of restrictions on the number of people being allowed into the country.
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Ms Kolodziej’s job over the course of the pandemic has involved working with people with progressive neurological conditions, strokes and brain tumours who have also contracted COVID-19.
“I am so desperate to see my family and friends,” Ms Kolodziej said. “It has been an emotionally and physically gruelling six months working on the front line, and while I am glad I stayed, I am now just desperate to get home.”
“Now that the government has introduced the caps and I can’t get home, it feels as though I’ve been left out to dry by the Australian government.
“No other country in the world has turned its back on its citizens like Australia has, and when I’ve been working so hard and sacrificed so much over here it’s a real kick in the guts.”
Ms Kolodziej’s comments come as the issue of the cap on international arrivals looms as a key point of debate in today’s national cabinet meeting.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has committed to lifting the cap from 4000 arrivals per week to 6000, but that’s contingent on the premiers and chief ministers agreeing to expand their quarantine capacity.
In State Parliament on Thursday, Premier Peter Gutwein said the discussion around the capacity for states and territories to house people in quarantine would be ongoing.
“Regarding national discussions, the Prime Minister has indicated this week he would like to see states take on more quarantine capacity,” Mr Gutwein said. “The first step would be Tullamarine coming back into the mix and there being quarantining facilities in Victoria.”
In what will come as welcome news to Ms Kolodziej and other Tasmanians overseas, Mr Gutwein has pledged to advocate for “as many Tasmanians as possible to be a part of those flights as they return”.
It has been an emotionally and physically gruelling six months working on the front line, and while I am glad I stayed, I am now just desperate to get home.
Ms Kolodziej has paid $7000 for flights home in October, and set aside $3000 for quarantine costs. This was money she had been saving to put towards a house deposit.
“Unfortunately this one silver lining to the physically, mentally and emotionally crushing experience of working the front line in London has now dissipated all at once on my trip home,” she said.
Ms Kolodziej’s visa expires on November 11. “I could be unemployed here [and] I don’t know where I’ll live,” she said.
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