Tears of joy as final Australian state reopens after nearly 2 years

Sydney, Australia, Mar 3 (EFE).- After 697 days of hard border closures, Western Australia became Australia’s final state to reopen to domestic and international arrivals on Thursday, ending one of the strictest virus containment policies in the world.

Emotional scenes with tears of joy and hugs filled Perth airport after the arrival of hundreds of passengers aboard the first two planes, from Sydney and Singapore.

“I can’t believe she’s is here. I still don’t believe it,” a mother told the public broadcaster ABC upon being reunited with her daughter whom she hadn’t seen for almost two years due to the closure of borders on Apr. 5, 2020 to shield the state from Covid-19.

Some 5,000 people are expected on 22 domestic and five international flights to Western Australia on Thursday.

Arrivals must be fully vaccinated if coming from abroad, and will not have to enter quarantine, and triple-vaccinated if traveling domestically.

Anyone unvaccinated entering to the state from other parts of the country will be required to undergo a mandatory seven-day quarantine.

In addition, all passengers must complete a travel form and undergo a rapid antigen test within 12 hours of arrival.

The reopening of Western Australia, which comes almost four months after the country began to gradually reopen its borders on Nov. 1, was initially to take place on Feb. 5, but the Omicron outbreak delayed the plans.

The state government’s hardline border policy was harshly criticized by regions more eager to return to normality, such as New South Wales, as well as the Canberra government and the business sector.

Detractors considered that the country was fragmented, causing frustration among people and companies, as well as delaying economic recovery, but state Premier Mark McGowan argued that this was protecting 2.5 million residents from Covid-19.

McGowan said Thursday he can’t rule out shutting the border again in the future.

Australia has accumulated almost 3.3 million Covid-19 infections since the start of the pandemic, of which more than 19,500 were reported Thursday, in addition to more than 5,300 deaths. EFE


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