“Being an only child, it has been challenging living in a country separate from family,” she said.
The federal government announced in November that parents of Australian citizens and permanent residents would be classified as immediate family, allowing them to travel to Australian states and territories that have reached 80 per cent double dose vaccination targets.
As an immediate family member, Dr Meyer’s mother had been granted an exemption to see her daughter and was scheduled to arrive in Sydney on 1 December.
But due to growing uncertainty over the Omicron variant, the government has since stopped flights from nine southern African countries – including South Africa – for those who are not Australian citizens, permanent residents or their immediate family.
The government has also brought in 14 days of quarantine for those permitted to enter Australia from the region.
Dr Meyer said her mother is struggling to find a pathway into Australia due to airlines cancelling flights.
“I had an excellent team of travel agents in South Africa trying to find flights – there was nothing,” Dr Meyer said.
“There were basically two flights left out of the country – Singapore Airlines and an Emirates flight – everything was full from economy to first-class.
“We were devastated.”
As a pain specialist and anaesthetist, Dr Meyer said it’s been challenging working on the front lines of the pandemic without having family in Australia to offer support.
She said she has lost several close family members and friends in South Africa during the pandemic, and members of her family have been incredibly unwell from the virus.
“As an immigrant healthcare worker, we have been expected to work through this with no support and no end in sight of when we can see our families again,” Dr Meyer said.
“We are resilient people – that is why we do what we do every single day – we need to treat all patients when they hit our emergency departments and intensive care departments.
“The events over the past weekend … have left me feeling broken and as though the rug has been pulled out from under me.”
The government announced on Monday night that visa holders, such as international students and refugees, would face a two-week delay to arrive in Australia amid uncertainty over the Omicron variant.
All international arrivals must also self-isolate for 72 hours after landing in NSW, Victoria and the ACT.
In other states, 14 days of managed quarantine is required, and traveller cap arrangements are in place. In the Northern Territory, international arrivals may be permitted to undertake seven days of home quarantine.
Avril Williams’ Irish parents, who are deaf, are hoping to arrive in Sydney on Thursday.
While the family is happy to follow the current restrictions and isolate for 72 hours in home quarantine, they are nervous about further measures being introduced with little notice.
“It’s a different situation for deaf people going into a hotel quarantine. It’s not like they can pick up the phone and order food,” Ms Williams told SBS News.
“I just don’t know what measures would be set in place for situations like that.”
Ms Williams last saw her family in August 2019 when she was pregnant. Her parents – now in their 70s – are yet to meet her third child, who was born last March.
“I’m literally living on the edge until I actually see them,” she said.
“Every six months as we all go through as the world goes through different seasons, things get worse in different countries. So we’ve got to learn to live with it.”
It’s a similar story for Australian permanent resident Ben Tomlinson, whose mother is currently in the UK.
Mr Tomlinson’s mother has been granted a travel exemption to assist him post-ankle surgery next Monday.
“The last thing I want to happen is that the rules change when she’s mid-air, which is what has happened in other states,” he told SBS News.
“She’s quite elderly, and to be whisked off to quarantine for two weeks when she’s only here for three weeks and supposed to be here to assist me after the surgery, would be a massive spanner in the works for all of us.”
Mr Tomlinson said it’s been an emotional rollercoaster over the past few months and that he’s desperate to see his mother after three years apart.
He said his elation after the government declared parents would be classified as immediate family soon dissipated with news of the variant. Now, he’s pleading for the states and territories to take sensible measures.
“I would just hope they would provide a little bit of clarity and a little bit of notice for everybody,” he said.
“There’s real people who have not seen their families for such a long time. And everybody’s doing it tough. We all need to be thought about and accommodated.”
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet warned against “kneejerk” reactions to the variant on Monday and said he was confident with the state’s response.
“We don’t just need to learn to live alongside COVID, we need to learn to live alongside the variants as well,” he told reporters.
“And we’re very confident, based on our high vaccination rate.”
His comments come ahead of the national cabinet meeting on Tuesday afternoon to discuss concerns posed by the new variant and current measures in place to reduce its spread in Australia.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly said on Tuesday that authorities recognised the spread of the “variant of concern” could not be held off indefinitely.
“We cannot keep this Omicron variant out forever from Australia – eventually it will be here,” he said.
“Most importantly now we do what we can to slow down that introduction and all of the measures that have been introduced will assist with that.”
He said health authorities were working with international partners and directly with the World Health Organization to monitor the situation “very actively”.