(Sydney) Australia reopened on Monday almost 600 days after closing its borders, leading to moving reunion scenes at Sydney Airport.
On March 20, 2020, the massive island nation implemented the toughest border closures in the world to protect itself from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thousands of Australians living abroad have not been able to return home for 19 months. Thefts were so rare that nationals who were allowed to return had to stay in expensive hotel 14-day detention.
The two largest cities in the country, Sydney and Melbourne, have decided to withdraw the measures and fully vaccinated Australians can now travel without restriction.
The Australian company Qantas has stopped most of its fleet and its CEO Alan Joyce is happy with the resumption of international flights that “took too long” to arrive.
“It’s wonderful to see Australians reunite with their loved ones after such a long separation,” he said.
“This is a great day for Australia,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison, adding that the country was now “ready to take off!” “.
At Sydney Airport on Monday morning, the first landing passengers were overwhelmed with joy, resulting in scenes of hugs.
Abhi Bajaj, 35, said he was “overwhelmed” to be able to travel to the United States to celebrate Christmas with his family after a two-year separation.
“I’m looking forward to this day,” he told AFP before leaving for Los Angeles.
Although the number of passengers on the first flights was low, the frequency of flights is expected to gradually resume.
More than a million foreign nationals are stranded in Australia, unable to return to see their friends or family, and the mitigation measures apply primarily to Australian citizens.
Some Australian states with low vaccination rates are virtually shut down. The mandatory 14-day quarantine is in effect.