(Sydney) Australia reopened its borders on Monday after nearly 600 days of closing, leading to scenes of reunions at Sydney Airport.
On March 20, 2020, the mega-island continent implemented one of the world’s strictest border closures to protect itself from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tens of thousands of Australians living abroad have been unable to reach their home country for 19 months. Thefts were rare and citizens allowed to return had to undergo an expensive 14-day quarantine at the hotel.
The country’s two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, have decided to scrap these measures and fully vaccinated Australians can now travel without being quarantined.
Australia’s Qantas had grounded a large part of its fleet and CEO Alan Joyce was happy to resume international flights that “took too long to arrive”.
“It is great to see that Australians can be reunited with their loved ones after such a long period of separation,” he said.
“It’s a great day for Australia,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, posting a message on Facebook saying the country was “now ready to go!” “.
At Sydney Airport at dawn on Monday, the first passengers who disembarked exploded with joy, leading to touching scenes of hugs.
Abhi Bajaj, 35, said he was “overwhelmed” by his ability to travel to the United States to celebrate Christmas with his family after two years of separation.
“I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time,” he told AFP before leaving for Los Angeles.
It is expected that the frequency of flights will gradually resume, even if the number of passengers in the first flights is small.
More than a million foreign residents remain stranded in Australia, unable to return to see their friends or family, with mitigation measures applied primarily to Australian citizens.
Some Australian states with a low vaccination rate will remain virtually closed. A mandatory 14-day quarantine will remain in effect.
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