Australia Reopens Borders and Welcomes Back Tourists with Gifts

On Monday, international visitors and business travelers resumed arriving in Australia with little restrictions, bringing families together in tearful reunions after being separated for two years or longer due to some of the world’s most severe pandemic procedures.

In an effort to minimize the local spread of COVID-19, Australia closed its borders to visitors in March 2020, but it lifted the final travel restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers on Monday.

Sue Witton, a tearful British tourist, was received at Melbourne’s airport by her adult son Simon Witton.

“We’ve been separated for 724 (days), and he’s my only son, and I’m alone, so this means everything to me,” she told reporters.

Travelers were met by ecstatic well-wishers waving toy koalas and popular Australian goodies such as Tim Tams chocolate biscuits and jars of Vegemite spread at Sydney’s airport.

The first passengers on a Qantas aircraft from Los Angeles arrived at 6:20 a.m., and Federal Tourism Minister Dan Tehan was on there to greet them. the time in your area

“I believe our tourism sector will see a significant revival.” “Our amazing experiences haven’t faded,” Tehan said.

The travel restrictions have kept Danielle Vogl, who resides in Canberra, and her Florida-based partner Eric Lochner apart since October 2019.

She said she cried when she learned of the restrictions being lifted, which will allow them to reunite in April, and she called him to tell him.

“I really woke him up to inform him,” Vogl told Australian Broadcasting Corp. “I believed it was significant enough news to do that.”

“He couldn’t believe what he was hearing….” ‘Are you sure, is this true?’ he said, and I replied, ‘Yes, it’s happening.’ “Now that this is done, we can be together again,” she continued.

Because the pair was not married or living together, Lochner was not eligible for a travel ban exception.

“For us, it’s been a long and brutal process,” Vogl added.

To avoid a repetition of Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic’s visa problem, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said all passengers’ vaccination status would be verified before they arrived.

Djokovic had an automatic visa before leaving Spain to play in the Australian Open in January, but he was deported after arriving in Melbourne because he had not been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Phillipa Harrison, managing director of Tourism Australia, predicted that tourist numbers would take two years to recover to pre-pandemic levels.

“This is a fantastic start,” Harrison stated. “This is exactly what the industry has been begging for; just return our overseas guests and we’ll take care of the rest.”

On Monday, Qantas flew people in from eight different countries, including Vancouver, Singapore, London, and New Delhi.

Since the federal government declared two weeks ago that the country was loosening restrictions, the airline’s chief executive Alan Joyce said reservations had been robust.

“It’s been a difficult two years for everyone in the tourist business, but this marks one of the major milestones on the road to complete recovery, so we’re extremely optimistic,” Joyce said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said 1.2 million people have permits to visit Australia with 56 international planes set to touch down in the first 24 hours of the border reopening.

Australia reported 17,736 new COVID-19 infections on Monday, with 34 fatalities. Since the outbreak of the epidemic, Australia has lost 4,929.

In March 2020, Australia’s citizens and permanent residents were subjected to among of the world’s strictest travel restrictions in order to prevent them from carrying COVID-19 back home.

Travelers had to ask for a waiver from the travel restriction, but tourism was not one of the reasons that was approved. When border restrictions were loosened in November in response to an improving vaccination rate among the Australian population, international students and skilled migrants were given priority. Early entry was also granted to tourists from New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea.

COVID-19 rules apply to Australian states and territories as well. Western Australia, which spans a third of the island continent, has the harshest laws.

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