Travel bubble means baby visit for Healesville grandparents

Baby George will soon get to meet his grandparents when they travel to New Zealand.

The new Trans-Tasman travel bubble has allowed for quarantine-free visits between New Zealanders and Australians. For some it’s a chance for a much-needed holiday, while for Healesville couple Cathie and Tim, it’s an opportunity to meet their first newborn grandson.

Seven-week old baby George was born in Christchurch on 17 March to parents Laura and Sam. Proud grandmother Cathie has been video calling the new parents each day, but said she is “ecstatic” to finally have the opportunity to head over and meet her grandson in person, flying out on 5 May.

“We can’t wait to meet baby George,” she said, holding back the tears. She said baby George has red hair and looks exactly like his father, Sam. And that she’s looking forward to hugging her daughter and seeing her as a mum.

“I was over there just before all this (Covid-19) happened. We had just stopped the flights from China when I flew back in to Melbourne Airport from New Zealand,” Cathie said.

She considers herself lucky to have visited at the last opportunity just before international borders shut down. At the time she said landing back at Melbourne had a “different feeling” with the impending lockdown and border closures.

The long time between visits, meant that she missed Laura’s entire pregnancy.

“I haven’t seen her pregnant and we’ve just talked on the phone for the last 12 months, so to actually see them will be amazing.”

Cathie sympathises with families who have loved ones stranded overseas, particularly as international flights are cut off from India as the country struggles to handle a surge in Covid-19 cases.

“My heart goes out to them. It’s nice to talk on the phone and have FaceTime, but it’s not the same as seeing them.”

Cathie and Tim have been waiting patiently for their opportunity to travel. In previous months they didn’t meet the qualifications to travel to New Zealand, which prioritised New Zealand residents with dying or recently deceased relatives. The 14 day hotel quarantine meant that numbers were limited.

“Until this bubble opened, we couldn’t get over there… It was quite strict and we didn’t qualify.”

The new grandmother isn’t feeling overly concerned about the risk of getting stuck amid a pending outbreak between either country. She feels confident any lockdown would be contained to a matter of days as seen recently in Perth, Victoria and Auckland.

“I wouldn’t mind, New Zealand can keep me!” she joked. “It’s just a risk we take now that we could go into another quick lockdown and would then have to wait to get home… I don’t mind if I get locked into New Zealand, not getting over there would be worse for me.”

Cathie said she’s looking forward to spending three weeks looking after the new parents by babysitting and cooking for them.