Status: 01.11.2021 7:25 a.m.
Australia’s international borders were closed for months. Families were separated, tens of thousands were stranded abroad. Now the borders are open again.
After almost 600 days of closure due to the corona pandemic, Australia has reopened its international borders. Citizens and people residing Down Under can now easily enter and leave the country again – at least in some states.
The relaxations apply to those entering the states of New South Wales and Victoria as well as the Australian Capital Territory with the capital Canberra after 70 percent of the population there were vaccinated twice. Some Australian states with comparatively lower vaccination rates stick to the strict quarantine rules.
Australia introduced one of the toughest border regulations in the world on March 20 last year due to the corona pandemic. Almost all trips to the country were stopped. For the past 19 months, Australians have only been allowed to travel abroad with permission. Families were separated, tens of thousands of Australians stranded abroad. Only a few were granted entry permits and then had to pay thousands of dollars and be in hotel quarantine for 14 days.
“Every day was a fight”
At Sydney airport there were already emotional scenes in the early hours of the morning, sometimes in tears, relatives hugged their arriving family members. Machines from Los Angeles, Singapore and Tokyo landed, among others. “There were a lot of people on the plane whose relatives are dying,” said Carly Boyd, who flew back home from the United States, to the broadcaster ABC.
Julie Choo came from the UK to visit her sick mother in the hospital. When she landed, she had to hold back tears. “I can’t wait to hold my mother’s hand,” she said.
The Australian David Frisken came to Kingsford Smith International Airport in Sydney with two dozen red roses to embrace his fiancée, who lives in South Korea, for the first time in almost two years. “Every day has been a struggle,” he said. Many relationships would not have survived the long separation caused by the pandemic.
“A great day for Australia”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke of a “great day for Australia”. He wrote on Facebook that Australia was now “ready to go”. New South Wales Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet said November could not have started more positively. “Today is a day many people have been waiting for, and our high vaccination rates have allowed us to reopen in a safe and thoughtful manner.”
The Australian aviation industry is also relieved. Qantas Airline Chief Alan Joyce said it was “wonderful to see Australians with loved ones being able to meet again after such a long time.” Quantas had the majority of their aircraft on the ground for more than 18 months.
Relaxations do not apply to foreign residents
The airport manager, Geoff Culbert, raved about the “magic” that has returned to the arrival halls. Grandparents could have seen their grandchildren for the first time, families were reunited. “All of these scenes were missing for far too long,” he emphasized.
However, over one million foreign residents without permanent residence still need an exit permit. Tourists are also not allowed to travel down under yet. It is still unclear when this will be allowed again. Only trips from neighboring New Zealand to Australia are now possible again without the obligation to quarantine. In April, the two island states created a bilateral corridor for quarantine-free travel – the “Trans-Tasman bubble”. However, this was initially suspended in July due to rising corona numbers in Australia.