Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Flowers, cheers and tears: Australia opens international border



Flowers, cheers and tears: Australia opens international border

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A family is reunited after their flight from Los Angeles landed at the Sydney International Airport on Monday. AFP

Flowers, cheers and tears: Australia opens international border

Australia's international border reopened on Monday almost 600 days after a pandemic closure began, sparking emotional scenes at Sydney airport as loved ones reunited.

Shortly after dawn, bleary-eyed passengers began to trickle into the arrivals terminal at Kingsford Smith International and were quickly wrapped up in the tearful embraces of flower-clutching relatives.

On March 20 last year, Australia introduced some of the world’s toughest border restrictions in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Almost all travel to the island continent halted, prompting critics to dub the country a “hermit state”.

Tim Turner, who had not seen his son for more than a year, said it was “pretty brilliant” that they were now able to reunite.

Arriving in Sydney was “beautiful, beautiful”, he told reporters at the airport.

Julie Choo, who flew back from the UK to visit her sick mother in hospital, said she was trying not to cry as the plane touched down.

“I just can’t wait to touch my mother’s hand when I see her. I can’t wait to hold her,” she said. “It’s going to be very emotional.”

For the last 19 months, Australians have been banned from travelling overseas without permission.

Families were split across continents, and tens of thousands of nationals were stranded overseas.

The few who did gain permission to enter were forced to spend thousands of dollars and agree to spend 14 days locked in a hotel room.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Family members wait for their loved ones in the arrivals lounge at Sydney International airport on November 1, after Australia relaxed mandatory quarantine restrictions. AFP

Those conditions have now been dropped for the country’s two largest cities – Sydney and Melbourne – which will now allow vaccinated Australians to come and go without quarantine of any kind.

Leaving the island

Abhi Bajaj, 35, said it was “too overwhelming” that he could now travel to the US to celebrate Christmas with family after two years apart.

“I was waiting for this day for a long time,” he said, before boarding a flight to Los Angeles.

Australian airline Qantas had grounded much of its fleet for more than 18 months, with CEO Alan Joyce calling the resumption of regular international flights “a long time coming”.

“It’s wonderful to see Australians able to reunite with loved ones after such a long time apart,” he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was a “big day for Australia”, posting on Facebook that the country was now “ready for take-off!”

Travel is expected to resume slowly after such a protracted shutdown, with low passenger numbers on the first flights to arrive.

More than one million foreign residents remain stuck in Australia unable to see friends or relatives overseas, with the relaxed travel rules applying mainly to citizens.

And some Australian states with lower vaccination rates will remain virtually closed to the world, as they still have mandatory and costly 14-day hotel quarantine requirements in place.

MOST VIEWED

  • Massive stingrays may live in Mekong’s deep pools

    US scientists have suggested that unexplored deep pools in the Mekong River in an area of Stung Treng could potentially be home to significant populations of giant freshwater stingrays, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish species. This comes as a fisherman hooked a 180

  • PM takes time to meet, greet Cambodians living in the US

    After landing in the US ahead of the ASEAN-US Special Summit, Prime Minister Hun Sen was received by over 1,000 Cambodian-Americans including political analysts who welcomed him with greetings, fist bumps and selfies. Hun Sen also met with analyst Mak Hoeun, who had allegedly spoken ill

  • PM heads to Washington for ASEAN-US special summit

    Regional and international issues and how to bring the ASEAN-US partnership to another level will be discussed at length as Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ministers arrive in Washington, DC, for a special summit on May 12-13. During the trip, Hun Sen and ASEAN

  • National Assembly refutes EU resolution

    The National Assembly (NA) has hit back at a European Parliament resolution condemning the political and human rights situation in Cambodia, calling it another display of the Parliament’s “double standards”. Key points of the resolution include a warning that the Parliament could exclude the

  • Soaring global fuel prices: an opportunity for Cambodia?

    Cambodia is feeling the squeeze from the soaring global coal and oil prices. Electricity du Cambodge (EDC)would certainly be hurting from this reality, and most likely re-assessing its plans to add more coal power stations. EDC buys half of Cambodia’s electricity from plants

  • PM reflects on shoe throwing: Free speech or act of violence?

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 17 questioned whether a man who threw a shoe at him while he was in the US was exercising freedom of expression or if it was an act of hostility. Hun Sen was referring to an incident last week when