‘Starting to feel quite isolated’: Families back from NSW battle quarantine blues

They spent months of 2020 in lockdown and now many of those forced into 14-day quarantine after returning home from NSW are experiencing serious deja vu.

But his time they can't go to the shops, meet friends or even walk the dog. They're confined to the home, even after testing negative to COVID-19, and it's causing frustration and stress.

Staying home: Pauline Ioannou, husband Arthur and children Austin, 13, and Sienna, 11.Credit:Jason South

"We're starting to feel quite isolated, like it's a struggle to make sure we keep physically active," said Pauline Ioannou, 47, of Northcote, who is is home-bound with husband, Arthur, 53, and children Austin, 13, and Sienna, 11.

They live in a townhouse, without a yard. "We're watching lots of Netflix," Ms Ioannou said. "The kids are having an abundance of screen time which they normally wouldn't have.

"They're playing board games, card games and having jump rope competitions."

Mental health is a concern. "We're trying to stay positive."

Getting through quarantine: Pauline Ioannou, her husband, Arthur, and children Sienna, 11 and Austin, 13.Credit:Jason South

Ms Ioannou is unhappy about what she sees as the state government's poor communication to Victorians visiting NSW.

Her family was in Bermagui on the NSW south coast when there was talk of a border closure, following COVID-19 outbreaks in other parts of NSW.

At 6.15pm on New Year’s Eve Ms Ioannou applied online for a Victorian government permit to cross the border.

The permit said the family would have to quarantine only if they had visited NSW red zone areas "but we were not in those areas".

At 10.55pm, Ms Ioannou logged on to the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services website to change her address on the permit: the family is renting while its own house is renovated.

She discovered that the permit system had changed to make a 14-day quarantine compulsory for all Victorians crossing from "green zones'' in NSW, including Bermagui from 11.59pm on December 31.

It was too late for the family to make it to Victorian border before the deadline. "It was just a shambles," she said.

Similarly, Mark Farrelly is angry that after visiting relatives in Newcastle, NSW – a COVID-19 "green zone" – he, his wife and son, 14, now have to quarantine at home in Coburg for 14 days after spending 13 hours driving to Melbourne on New Year's Day.

Mr Farrelly said telling Victorians in NSW that they had less than half a day on New Year's Eve to cross the border, or they would have to enter quarantine, was "outrageous".

His mother-in-law, 84, couldn't come on the long drive and is now seeking an exemption to come home to Melbourne.

Mr Farrelly is also annoyed that his family can't leave their property even after they all tested negative to COVID-19 on Sunday.

Relationships Australia national executive officer Nick Tebbey said frustration, anxiety and a little grief were common feelings in quarantine.

"It's the time when everyone wants to be relaxed and enjoying the outdoors and they can't do that."

Mr Tebbey advised people to "find ways to enjoy themselves", follow routines and do things together, such as board games or crafts, "to take everyone's mind off the circumstances that they're in".

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