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Tears and frustration as curtain goes up on SA

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The reopening of South Australia’s border triggered emotional scenes at Adelaide Airport this morning, as travellers reunited with loved ones and hit out at problems with the state’s arrival systems.

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Roughly 43,000 people have registered to travel to South Australia, with Anna Cock and her family arriving on the 8:25am flight from Melbourne.

The expatriate who is moving back to her native Adelaide from Tokyo embraced her parents for the first time in two years – and said she had found it harder to get from Victoria to South Australia than to travel from Japan to Melbourne.

Anna Cock and children Daisy and Bert are reunited with Anna’s mum Jenny. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

“It’s been quite extraordinary, I understand SA authorities need to protect the community, but we’re fully vaxxed, stuck to all rules and definitely the hardest step was getting to Adelaide,” Cock told InDaily.

She was caught up in a malfunction of the EntryCheck system on Monday, when the website crashed for nearly an hour at a crucial moment in her journey.

“I rang the helpline, and they said basically unless I could register I wouldn’t be able to get on the plane today … we’ve got seven days quarantine and then we can get back to our lives.”

People flying in from overseas — along with arrivals from areas with a below 80 per cent vaccination rate —  make up just two per cent of registered travellers, and are still required to quarantine.

Arriving on the same flight, Christopher Leech wept as he hugged father Steven after a lengthy fight to secure passage from Victoria.

Steven Leech explained that his son had been denied exemptions to get across to see his terminally ill grandfather, who only has a few weeks to live.

“We tried to get him over earlier but the government wouldn’t let him until they opened the borders,” said Steven. “It didn’t matter what exemptions we tried to get, we got doctors and specialists to write letters and the government said ‘nup, not going to happen’.”

Christopher said he felt like “I’ve actually won the lottery”.

“I haven’t been able to hug my dad since April … it’s amazing what the human touch can actually do when you see your family members.”

NSW-based businessman Anthony Prior, who flew in on the 9:05am flight from Sydney and has a plastics plant in Adelaide he hasn’t been able to visit for months, found the requirement to register with numerous apps and websites extremely complicated.

“There were so many passwords, so many this, so many that, all the emails went to the spam folder, so had to unspam them which is quite difficult on your phone at the airport,” Prior said.

Premier Steven Marshall this morning told reporters those who had applications processed to visit SA faced a “range of restrictions”.

“Some people can come straight in, some people need to have a test before they come and a test when they arrive and of course some people who are unvaccinated will still have to do quarantine,” he said.

He said 88 per cent of South Australians had had at least one vaccination dose, with the fully vaccinated rate expected to reach 79 per cent tonight.

Marshall said he was confident the state would reach 90 per cent double dosed by the end of the year, allowing a further relaxation of local restrictions.

Just over a third of arrivals registered to travel to SA are coming from areas of community transmission with a double vaccination rate over 90 per cent, and are required to have taken a COVID test and do daily symptom checks.

Nearly a quarter of travellers are coming from medium risk areas with a vaccination rate above 80 per cent, and will need to take a second test on arrival and quarantine until they get the results.

Igor Kwiatkowski, Qantas’s executive manager of global sales and distribution, told reporters his company was putting on 100 flights this week into and out of Adelaide, with 650 expected by January.

“We’ve had unprecedented demand,” he said.

He also announced the first direct international flight out of Adelaide would occur next month, to Delhi “which is a really exciting development”.

South Australia’s border processing systems will be put to the test in the coming days as flights ramp up.

With one flight from Melbourne and then another from Sydney just over half an hour apart to process, queues still snaked from the customs desk past the gate entrance.

Adelaide Airport check-in. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Adelaide Airport Limited Managing Director Mark Young told InDaily his team are gearing up for an influx of passengers that require stringent processing requirements.

“The opening of South Australia’s borders will see an immediate increase of 105 flights a week,” he said. “This will naturally put some additional pressure on teams, systems and equipment as the airport comes back up to speed.”

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