Less than 48 hours after lifting seven-month-long hard border controls, Western Australia has imposed new restrictions on travelers from South Australia over a coronavirus cluster, catching some of them mid-flight, literally.

Western Australia opened its border on Saturday after Victoria recorded its 15th consecutive day without new coronavirus cases or deaths. While the state’s hard border closure lasted about seven months, the opportunity window for family reunions proved to be quite narrow – at least for some South Australia residents.

Less than two days after the border closures were lifted, the WA government imposed new restrictions on passengers arriving at Perth Airport from South Australia. The unluckiest passengers were hit by the decision while on their flights and, on arrival, were offered an option to fly back on Monday. Those who were only boarding planes in Adelaide were ‘luckier’: they were simply advised to disembark and go home.

All new arriving passengers will now be subject to a mandatory test for Covid-19 either immediately or within 24 hours of arrival, as well as being forced into 14-days quarantine “in a suitable premise.”

Those traveling from SA by car will face the same testing and quarantine rules. The restrictions will be also retroactively applied to even those lucky South Australians who managed to get into the state before the decision was announced. They will be tested and required to be in quarantine until the results come through.

“We understand these changes will cause frustration for many people, but these steps are being taken on the best health advice to protect everyone,” WA’s chief health officer Andrew Robertson said in a statement. “The State Government thanks all arrivals for their patience and understanding.”

The drastic move, set to disrupt a lot of long-awaited family reunions, was prompted by the detection of a new coronavirus cluster in Adelaide. Four individuals, including one working at one of the city’s “quarantine hotels” and a Correctional Services employee, tested positive for coronavirus on Saturday. While several family members of the infected have already shown symptoms, the SA’s health authorities reckon more cases should be expected.

“Which is why I am absolutely warning South Australians: this is a wake-up call – if you have respiratory symptoms, you’ve got to get tested,” SA’s chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said.

Australia has one of the strictest anti-coronavirus sets of limitations in the world. Since the beginning of the pandemic, it has registered only 27,700 cases and over 900 deaths.

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