After nearly two years of being closed due to the epidemic, Australia reopened its international borders to visitors who had been vaccinated against the coronavirus on Monday, welcoming holidaymakers and reuniting hundreds of individuals with family and friends.
More than 50 international aircraft will arrive in the country during the day, with 27 landing in Sydney, the country’s largest city, as the tourism and hospitality industries struggle to recover from the impact of COVID-19 limitations.
“It’s a really exciting day, one that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, from the day I initially sealed that border right at the outset of the pandemic,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Tasmania, a tourist-dependent island state. There were numerous heartbreaking reunions after being separated from loved ones for months, including Cindy Moss’s trip from Kentucky to meet her daughter. “I hadn’t seen her in a long time, and it was such a big deal for me to be able to come over here. So I’m really looking forward to it “She replied, her voice quivering with emotion, after holding her daughter.
Tourism is one of Australia’s most important sectors, worth about $55 billion and employs around 5% of the workforce. However, the business was severely harmed when the government closed its borders in March 2020.
After attaining greater vaccination levels, Australia, once a champion of COVID-suppression policy, has changed away from its fortress-style controls and continuous lockdowns, and has begun living with the virus. In a gradual reopening exercise, skilled migrants, overseas students, and backpackers have been allowed to fly into Australia since November.
Passengers returning to Sydney were greeted in the air with the words “Welcome Back World!” painted on a sign near the runways, while people dressed as kangaroos greeted passengers and a DJ played music from a vehicle decorated with the words “You were worth the wait!”
“It’s a party out here, music playing, smiles on people’s faces; they’ll be dancing soon, I’m sure,” Tourism Minister Dan Tehan told Australian network ABC as he welcomed visitors with a jar of vegemite and plush koala toys from Sydney airport.
With Qantas Airways planning to fly more than 14,000 passengers into Australia this week, Tehan predicted a “very significant” return in the tourism business. Virgin Australia reported that domestic bookings were improving and that demand for international flights was still being assessed.
Meanwhile, after a salary disagreement between the union and the state government, all trains in Sydney were cancelled on Monday, putting a damper on the reopening.
Omicron outbreak past its pick
As Australia’s borders reopen, the Omicron coronavirus outbreak looks to have peaked, with hospital admissions steadily declining over the last three weeks.
Since the emergence of Omicron in late November, the majority of Australia’s pandemic total of roughly 2.7 million confirmed cases has been found. The total number of people that died was 4,929.
By midday Monday, little over 17,000 new cases and 17 deaths had been reported, with the Northern Territory expected to report later.
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