Emotional family reunions at Sydney Airport as Australia lifts its 18-month-old international travel ban

Australia's strict travel rules prohibited many from attending significant events, such as weddings and funerals, as well as preventing people from seeing family and friends. (Image: REUTERS/Jaimi Joy)

As the situation in Covid improves across the world and people return to normalcy, numerous countries have begun to open their borders to international travelers. Australia has joined the list, having opened its international border on Monday, almost 600 days after the Covid-induced shutdown. According to AFP, this resulted in tearful scenes at Sydney Airport as loved ones were reunited.

Early in the morning, bleary-eyed travelers began to stream into Kingsford Smith International's arrivals terminal, where they were swiftly wrapped up in the sobbing embraces of flower-clutching relatives, according to AFP. 

Due to the global health crisis caused by the Covid-19 virus, Australia imposed some of the world's strictest border controls in March of last year. Almost all movement to the island continent was then prohibited, causing detractors to label the country a "hermit state."

Tim Turner, who had not seen his son in over a year, told AFP that their reunion was "pretty brilliant." He described his arrival in Sydney as "beautiful, beautiful."

Julie Choo, who traveled back from the UK to see her sick mother in the hospital, expressed similar thoughts, saying it was hard not to cry as the plane touched down. "When I see my mother, I can't wait to touch her hand. "I can't wait to hold her," she expressed her excitement to reporters. "It'll be very emotional."

Because of the pandemic, Australians have been prohibited from traveling abroad without authorization for the past 19 months. Families were divided up across continents, and tens of thousands of citizens were left stranded.

That granted entry was forced to pay hundreds of dollars and agree to spend 14 days in quarantine in a hotel room. However, those restrictions have been lifted in Australia's two main cities, Sydney and Melbourne, allowing vaccinated Australians to travel freely without being subjected to any quarantine.

Getting Off The Island

According to AFP, Abhi Bajaj, 35, said it was "too overwhelming" to be able to spend Christmas with his family in the United States after two years away. Before boarding a flight to Los Angeles, he told AFP, "I've been looking forward to this day for a long time."

Qantas has been grounded for more than 18 months, with CEO Alan Joyce describing the return of regular foreign flights as "a long time coming." "It's fantastic to see Australians reunite with loved ones after such a long separation," he remarked.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared it a "historic day for Australia," writing on Facebook that the country was "ready for take-off!"

The Next Steps

Now that the coronavirus situation has improved, the travel industry is expected to slowly reopen after such a long closure period, with low passenger numbers on the first aircraft to arrive.

For the uninitiated, more than one million foreign residents remain stranded in Australia, unable to visit friends or family abroad due to the loosened travel laws that only apply to Australian citizens. Furthermore, some Australian states with lower vaccination rates will remain restricted to the rest of the world due to mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine regulations.

Publish : 2021-11-01 12:18:00

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