Starting from November 1, fully vaccinated Australian citizens have been greenlighted to travel abroad freely without a special permit or the need to quarantine on arrival. The move comes as much of Australia switches from the so-called Covid-zero pandemic-management strategy to living with the virus amid a large-scale vaccination drive. Over 77% of those 16 and older in the country of 25.9 million have received both shots of the jab so far, the health ministry said.
The Australian government had come up with one of the toughest responses to the pandemic, shutting down its international borders 18 months ago. Both citizens and foreign travelers have been barred from entering or exiting the country without an exemption. The move separated families and friends, leaving many Australians unable to attend important events, weddings or funerals.
Early on Monday, the flights from Singapore and Los Angeles were first to land in Sydney. Arriving passengers told the media that their journey was “a little bit scary and exciting” and described the final feeling of being able to return home after all this time as “surreal.”
People hugged and cried tears of joy as they reunited with their loved ones after the long break. Some said they’ve been apart for up to three years and expanded on the mental suffering of not being able to see their families due to the curbs.
Some 1,500 passengers were expected to fly into Sydney and Melbourne during the first day of eased restrictions, the airline industry group BARA has said.