South Australian couple trapped in South African due to COVID-19 pandemic reveal bid to return home

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A family-of-five reveal their desperate bid to return home to Australia from South Africa so their youngest child can have surgery.

Bill and Cristal Tsouvalas were living in South Africa when the coronavirus pandemic gripped the world and Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged Australians to come home on March 23.

The couple, originally from Adelaide, have struggled to bring their nine-month-old daughter Penelope to Australia so she can have surgery for a heart defect ever since, The Advertiser reported.

‘My No 1 priority is getting my daughter back to Australia as soon as possible,’ Mr Tsouvalas said. 

The family have had numerous flights back to Australia cancelled, including a business-class booking that cost $23,000.

Bill and Cristal Tsouvalas are trying to bring their youngest daughter Penelope home to Australia from South Africa so she can have surgery for a heart defect

Bill and Cristal Tsouvalas are trying to bring their youngest daughter Penelope home to Australia from South Africa so she can have surgery for a heart defect

The family family was granted a repatriation flight but were turned away in Pretoria when they arrived.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged Australians to come home in March, during the initial peak of COVID-19 but Mr Tsouvalas said it wasn’t easy to return at that time as his family had to pack up their lives first.

Australian state border restrictions

Victoria: Completely open, but other states are banning residents from going there

NSW: Border with Victoria is closed but others are open without restriction

Queensland: Open to everywhere but Victoria, NSW, and the ACT

Northern Territory: Open to everywhere but Victoria and Sydney, which must do hotel quarantine

South Australia: Closed to Victoria, NSW arrivals must self-isolate, rest are open

Tasmania: Closed to Victoria, everywhere else must do hotel quarantine

Western Australia: Closed to everywhere without an exemption 

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He also slammed the ‘unfair’ caps on how many people can return to Australia in a week, suggesting that airlines should be allowed to manage this instead. 

The caps were introduced in July and further tightened last month, when it was declared only 4,000 Australians could return home every week.

Cities such as Melbourne and Hobart aren’t taking any international arrivals at this stage.

Brisbane and Adelaide have a limit of 500 international arrivals per week while Perth’s weekly limit is 525.

Canberra and Darwin’s limit varies on a week-by-week basis following discussions with other states and territories.

Sydney has a limit of 350 passengers per day.

There are also strict rules for when Australians can leave the country, which are dictated by the Department of Home Affairs.

You can only leave if you have been granted an exemption by the department.  

These include whether your travel is in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, such as the provision of aid, if it is essential to business, for medical treatment or urgent and unavoidable personal business. 

Other reasons include if your travel is of national interest, if it is on humanitarian grounds and ‘urgent and unavoidable personal business’.

No one can leave the country without an exemption based on the mentioned reasons. 

Mr Morrison (pictured) urged Australians to come home in March, during the initial peak of COVID-19 in Australia

Mr Morrison (pictured) urged Australians to come home in March, during the initial peak of COVID-19 in Australia

Further restrictions on travel in to Australia were introduced by the Morrison Government on July 10 on how many people could return to Australia each week. Pictured: People being taken to hotel quarantine after landing in Sydney on August 23

Further restrictions on travel in to Australia were introduced by the Morrison Government on July 10 on how many people could return to Australia each week. Pictured: People being taken to hotel quarantine after landing in Sydney on August 23

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