“Just being able to come home without having to go into quarantine is huge,” incoming passenger Carly Boyd told reporters at Kingsford-Smith Airport in Sydney, where Peter Allen’s unofficial national anthem was played. “I Still Call Australia Home”.
“There are a lot of people on this flight who have loved ones who are on the verge of death or who have people who have died this week then. For them to be able to get off the plane and go see them right away is pretty amazing, ”added Boyd.
Thailand also reopened its border on Monday. Fully vaccinated tourists arriving by air from 46 countries and territories no longer have to self-quarantine and can travel freely. And local restrictions such as curfews in some areas have been lifted.
Before the pandemic, Sydney was Australia’s busiest international airport, but until Monday it was almost deserted.
The new freedoms mean permanent residents and outgoing fully vaccinated Australian citizens can leave the country for any reason without asking the government for a waiver of a travel ban that has imprisoned the most at home since March 15, 2020.
Incoming vaccinated Australians can return home without being quarantined in a hotel for two weeks. Capping the number of quarantines in hotels had been a major obstacle for thousands of Australians stranded abroad. This cap now only applies to unvaccinated travelers.
Sydney was the first Australian airport to announce its reopening on Monday as New South Wales was the first state where 80% of the population aged 16 and over has been fully vaccinated. Melbourne and Canberra, the nation’s capital, also opened on Monday after the state of Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory reached the vaccination threshold.
Sydney had 16 inbound international flights scheduled for Monday and 14 outbound. Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city, had five entrances and five exits. Canberra did not have one.
The first scheduled international passenger flight to land in Australia was a Singapore Airlines flight from Singapore that landed before 6 a.m. local time, followed by a Qantas Airways flight that had flown 15 hours from Los Angeles.
Qantas customer service manager Paul Wason said landing in Sydney was a “huge day” for passengers and crew.
“Very mixed emotions, great emotions, a lot of happiness, a lot of sadness, a lot of excitement too,” Wason said.
An Australian who lives in San Francisco, who identified himself only as Jeremy, said he had been trying to return to Sydney with his wife and baby girl since July. They had been short-term prevented from flying four times, twice because flights had been delayed and twice because quarantine caps had been reduced in response to the COVID-19 delta variant that had taken hold in Sydney in June.
“Every moment until we were seated on the plane I felt like something was going to go wrong and I’m so glad it went well and we were here,” Jeremy said. at Australian Broadcasting Corp. at Sydney’s airport.
Initially, only permanent residents and Australian citizens will be free to enter the country. Fully vaccinated foreigners traveling on skilled worker and student visas will be given priority over international tourists.
But now the government expects Australia to welcome international tourists again before the end of the year to some extent.
Some of Australia’s 1.6 million temporary residents feel left out of Australia’s plan to reopen and are unsure of their travel status.
“I think it’s vague around the definition of residents and where we come to be involved in this national plan,” said Jennifer Clayburn, an American who has been living with her family in Melbourne since January last year on a visa. short term for skilled workers.
“We have done it hard, alongside all Australians. We too want to be around the Christmas table with our family, but we don’t want to be summarily excluded from Australia when we return, ”she added.
Graham Turner, managing director of Australia’s largest travel agency Flight Center, said international travel to Australia is not expected to return to normal until mid-2024.
“It will come back quickly for those who really want to travel. Initially. it’s friends and relatives. People who haven’t seen each other for a long time, ”Turner said.
“This will be the first wave. And the traveling wave will tend to come a bit later, once people see what the scenario looks like, ”Turner added.
While Australians are now free to travel abroad, four Australian states and one territory impose pandemic restrictions on crossing state borders.
An Australian who landed at Sydney Airport expressed frustration at having to seek permission to visit his dying mother in Western Australia state.
Western Australia has low COVID-19 and has the lowest immunization level in the country, with only 63% of the target population fully vaccinated.
The man appealed to the media for the Prime Minister of Western Australia, Mark McGowan, to let him in. McGowan said the state border will not open this year.
“Mark, think about the people who are in pain, like, mentally, seeing their families. It’s also a health issue. And we know we have to protect people’s lives, but you have to reunite families again, you have to. do it, ”said the man, who did not give his name.