Australian woman stuck in Wales for months due to Covid-19 restrictions after visiting dying father

Airplane

An Australian woman has told of how she is tuck in Wales due to Covid-19 travel restrictions after flying in to be with her dying father in Pembrokeshire.

Pearl Findlay-James, a grandmother of 10, flew to Wales from Melbourne in July. But she says that she doesn’t realise that when she was granted an overseas travel exemption to the UK for compassionate reasons in July, that she wouldn’t see her family for months.

No international flights are currently coming into Melbourne and limited numbers are accepted into Australia at all.

“The UK is heading into its second wave and I’m worried this will make it even harder to get home,” she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“Last week I logged on to another cancellation. I had a terrible day, I was really down.”

She said some people had questioned her trip to Wales in the first place, knowing the global COVID-19 situation, but she did not regret her decision to visit her father.

“He rang me and was quite upset. Dad said, ‘Pearl, when are you coming? I’m dying.’ I said, ‘Dad I’ll do my best.’ The hospital said he was OK, but I’ve always trusted my Dad,” she said.

Her father, Patrick James, 90, of Haverfordwest, died four days after his daughter arrived in Wales.

“I can take to my grave that I sat and held my dad while he went to God,” she said.

“Nobody can ever take that away from me, no matter what my journey is now.”

Patrick James was one of the longest-serving volunteers at Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre and his family made a donation in his memory.

 

Family

The Federal Government has extended a ban on overseas travel out of Australia, meaning Australians have to apply online to Border Force and meet strict exemption criteria.

One of the exemption criteria is travelling on compassionate grounds, which Ms Findlay-James qualified for when her father was hospitalised in Wales.

Pearl Findlay-James wasn’t able to visit him in hospital because of COVID-19 restrictions, but she organised palliative care at her father’s house in Pembroke Dock, enabling him to die in his own home.

She left Australia with 24 hours’ notice, not realising when she packed that it would be for an indefinite period of time.

“My whole family are in Australia. My husband, my children and my 10 grandchildren,” she said. “It’s time to go home.

“I’m on a waitlist to try and get into Sydney.”

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester helped Ms Findlay-James get to Wales on compassionate grounds in July, and said he was working to get Ms Findlay-James back to Victoria.

“We are doing everything possible to help Pearl return as soon as possible. She travelled for legitimate compassionate reasons,” he said.

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