Australians Reunite as Border Reopens After 20-Month Ban

CANBERRA, Australia Sydney's international airport was alive Monday when Australia's border opened. Some arriving passengers removed their mandatory masks in order to see the faces of those they have been separated from so long.
It is amazing to be able to return home without being quarantined. Carly Boyd, a passenger from New York, said that she was able to do this because Peter Allen's unofficial national anthem, I Still Call Australia Home, was playing at Sydney Kingsford-Smith Airport.

Many people on that flight have lost loved ones or are grieving. Boyd said that it was amazing for them to be able get off the plane to go to see them right away.

Australia believes that the vaccination rates will be high enough to allow international visitors back after having maintained some of the strictest border controls in the world during the coronavirus pandemic.

Thailand was also reopening its borders Monday. Tourists who have been fully vaccinated and are arriving from 46 countries or territories by air no longer need to be quarantined and can freely move. Local restrictions, such as curfews in certain areas, were also being lifted.

Prior to the pandemic, Sydney was Australia's busiest international airport. However, it was almost deserted by Monday.

These new freedoms allow outbound fully vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents to leave the country without having to ask the government for an exemption from the travel ban that has kept most people at home since March 15, 2020.

Australians who have been vaccinated can return home after two weeks without being quarantined in hotels. For thousands of Australians who were stranded abroad, the hotel quarantine limit was a significant obstacle. This cap is no longer applicable to non-vaccinated travellers.

Sydney was the first Australian airport that announced it would reopen on Monday. New South Wales was the state in which 80% of its population was fully vaccinated. After the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria achieved the vaccination benchmark, Melbourne and Canberra opened Monday.

On Monday, Sydney had 16 international flights scheduled to arrive inbound and 14 outbound. Five flights were scheduled in to Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city. Five were outbound. Canberra did not have any.

Singapore Airlines flew the first international passenger flight to Australia. It landed in Australia before 6 a.m. local. A Qantas Airways flight, which had flown 15 hours from Los Angeles, was next.

Paul Wason, Qantas customer services manager, stated that landing in Sydney was an exciting day for both crew and passengers.

Wason stated that mixed emotions are very common, with great emotions, lots and lots of happiness, sadness, excitement, and lots of joy.

A San Francisco-based Australian resident identified himself as Jeremy and stated that he was trying to fly to Sydney with his baby girl and wife since July. Four times they were prevented from flying at short notice, two because flights were delayed and once because quarantine caps were reduced due to the COVID-19 Delta variant that took hold in Sydney in June.

It felt like something was wrong from the moment we got on the plane.

At first, only Australian citizens and permanent residents will be allowed to enter the country. International tourists will have priority over fully vaccinated foreigners who are traveling on student or skilled worker visas.

The government now expects Australia to welcome foreign tourists before the year ends.

Some of Australia's 1.6million temporary residents feel excluded from Australia's reopening plan, and uncertain about their travel status.

Jennifer Clayburn, an American who has been living in Melbourne with her family since January 2013 on a temporary visa for skilled workers, stated that she thinks it is vague about the definition of residents.

Along with all Australians, we have had to work hard. She said that while we want to be at the Christmas table with our families, we don't want to be taken away from Australia on our return.

Graham Turner, chief executive at Australia's largest travel agency Flight Center, stated that international travel to Australia is unlikely to resume normality until mid-2024.

For those who truly want to travel, it will be back very quickly. It's the friends and family first. It's the family and friends. Turner stated that people who haven't seen one another in a while are the most vulnerable.

This will be the first wave. Turner said that the traveling wave will likely come later once people have seen the situation.

While Australians can now travel internationally, four Australian states as well as a territory have placed pandemic restrictions that prevent them from crossing state borders.

Australian Ethen Carter, who arrived at Sydney's airport from Los Angeles, expressed frustration at the need to apply for permission in order to visit his mother in Western Australia.

Western Australia is a poor country for COVID-19, and only 63% are fully vaccinated.

Carter appealed to Premier Mark McGowan of Western Australia to allow him in. McGowan said that the state border would not be opened this year.

Mark, you should think about the people who are suffering mentally. This is also a problem of health. Carter stated that while we understand the need to protect lives, it is also important to bring families back together.

McGowan stated that his government would allow Carter to enter the country if he applied.

These are difficult situations and they're very sad," McGowan stated.

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