Australia allows residents and citizens to return as borders open

After being separated from his parents for two years, Jimmy Sugandi, 42, landed in Melbourne, Australia on Monday after traveling from I...

After being separated from his parents for two years, Jimmy Sugandi, 42, landed in Melbourne, Australia on Monday after traveling from Indonesia with his wife and two young children.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “We thought we would never come back. “

Mr. Sugandi and his family are Australian permanent residents living in Indonesia. During the pandemic, he tried to travel to Melbourne to see his parents, who live in the city. But Mr Sugandi was unable to secure a seat on one of the extremely limited flights due to Australia’s strict border restrictions.

Tens of thousands of Australians have been stranded abroad by border rules their country put in place about 18 months ago to fight the coronavirus pandemic. But Monday, the the states of New South Wales, which includes Sydney, and Victoria, which includes Melbourne, have lifted restrictions on citizens and permanent residents seeking to return. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, Australians can now also leave the country without needing a government waiver.

New South Wales and Victoria allow return of vaccinated Australians without quarantine. States are also removing caps on the number of citizens allowed to re-enter the country each week, which previously made it difficult to obtain plane tickets.

The movements come just over a week after Melbourne lifted one of the longest cumulative blockages in the world.

Other Australian states remain largely closed, both to foreign visitors and Australians returning from overseas or traveling from other states within the country.

At Melbourne Airport, the first international flight to land was from Singapore. Families gathered with tears and kisses as airport staff handed out bouquets of flowers.

After 21 months of separation, Kirsty Rae, 57, and Keely Briggs, her 25-year-old daughter, kissed.

“It was quite surreal,” said Ms. Briggs, who returned from South Korea, where she worked as a teacher, via a flight from Hong Kong. “It was really hard to come back,” she noted.

“I want to confiscate her passport so that she does not leave again,” her mother said, laughing.

The joy and relief were tempered with reminders of important missed moments and shattered lives.

Elva Duan, who spent 18 months away, returned from Hong Kong with three young children. Her husband was supposed to pick them up outside the airport, and the kids grabbed her clothes and shouted, “Where’s daddy?” Dad is already here?

Ms Duan said her youngest son was only a few months old when they left Australia. “Now he knows how to run, how to walk, how to talk,” she said. More news from around the world:

  • Fully vaccinated tourists from 63 countries can now travel by plane to Thailand, an effort to revive the country’s economy as it struggles to reduce the number of coronavirus cases. Bangkok has also lifted its nighttime curfew and will allow some restaurants to serve alcohol, although bars, nightclubs and entertainment venues will remain closed until at least December.

  • Greece reported a record 5,449 new coronavirus cases on Monday, weeks after the government lifted some pandemic restrictions, mostly for those vaccinated. The surge in cases has led authorities to consider introducing more restrictions for the unvaccinated or reimposing certain precautions in areas with the highest levels of infection, such as northern and central Greece.

  • A seven-day lockdown will begin Tuesday on Tongatapu, the largest island in Tonga, according to Matangi Tonga press briefing. The lockdown was brought about by the remote Pacific nation first positive test for coronavirus, which was discovered last week.

  • Many foreign national who has been vaccinated are now allowed to enter Israel by Ben-Gurion International Airport, the tourism ministry said on its website. Visitors who have been vaccinated must still follow a number of rules.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Australia allows residents and citizens to return as borders open
Australia allows residents and citizens to return as borders open
Newsrust - US Top News
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