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Couple quarantine in Mandurah after conquering COVID-19, isolation and redundancy in NZ

Amber Ellis and her fiance Thomas Pedersen consider themselves to be among the lucky few.

Last week their baby daughter, Indigo received cuddles from her grandmother for the first time. She is nine months old.

"It was the most amazing feeling being able to give my daughter over to my mum," Ms Ellis says. "They have a beautiful bond already."

Ms Ellis and Mr Pedersen have returned home to Mandurah in Western Australia after a gruelling and expensive ordeal - all thanks to COVID-19.

They were among more than 36,000 Australians who had told the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade they want to come home, with the number of people deemed vulnerable at 8070.

But as more stranded Aussies arrived home, more joined the list so the number of those waiting barely diminished.

When Amber spoke to the Mandurah Mail in September,she was fighting back tears as returning home to Western Australia seemed so far out of reach for her young family.

They were living in New Zealand when the COVID-19 pandemic took its grip, causing Mr Pedersen to be made redundant from his dream job as an airline pilot and forcing them to call off their wedding. They also began to fear for the life of their unborn baby.

The next few months involved a number of pregnancy issues - a placental abruption, many months of bed rest and an emergency C-section. All this during strict isolation, with Mr Pedersen going long stretches without being able to see their newborn child.

Meanwhile the couple was trying to get home to Mandurah to be with Ms Ellis' family but their hopes were dashed, first by hard borders, then by cancelled flights.

Finally last month they boarded on a plane; and arriving home has been everything they expected it to be - after the shock of touchdown.

"The army is stationed at the airport, it's really quite scary getting off the plane, you feel like you're in Afghanistan or somewhere, not Western Australia," Ms Ellis said.

"But it was amazing coming home. I never thought I'd miss Mandurah as much as I did."

Rule changes mean that people arriving in Western Australia from New Zealand can self-isolate as long as they do so safely - they can interact with other people living in the house in which they are staying as long as they keep a 1.5 metre distance and no visitors are allowed.

Close to half a million home

From Monday, the national cap increased to about 6700 a week as international flights arrive in Melbourne again.

DFAT officials said more than 426,000 people have returned since Australia's borders were closed in March, with 30,000 on government-facilitated flights.

Of those returned, 1.3 per cent have tested positive for the virus.

Mr Morrison raised hopes in September when he said he was keen to get as many - if not all - of the stranded travellers home in time for Christmas.

He's put the blame on states for the weekly cap on international arrivals, put in place to keep the hotel quarantine system sustainable.

Officials said the system's capacity was the constraining factor, with 30,000 empty flight seats a week because of limits.

Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said home quarantine posed an unacceptable risk for most international arrivals.

This story Generations reunited after COVID-19 shutdown first appeared on Mandurah Mail.