‘Tears and Laughter’ at Airports as Australians Allowed Back Home After Pandemic Shutdown
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They still called Australia home, but they weren’t actually allowed to go there. After a 20-month lockdown with strict quarantine rules that effectively cut the country off from the outside world, Australia finally opened its borders Monday. According to the Associated Press, Sydney’s Kingsford-Smith Airport “came alive with tears, embraces, and laughter” as the first planeloads of travelers flew in and family members briefly pulled down their mandatory masks just to be able to see each other’s faces. “Just being able to come home without having to go to quarantine is huge,” said passenger Carly Boyd, arriving from New York. “There’s a lot of people on that flight who have loved ones who are about to die or have people who died this week. So for them to be able to get off the plane and go see them straight away is pretty amazing."
Peter Allen’s “I Still Call Australia Home”—the song many Australians consider their unofficial national anthem—was blasting out as the airport came back to life, the AP reported. Apart from trapping the entire nation within its borders, the lockdown has also left tens of thousands of Australians stranded abroad. So far, only Australian citizens and permanent residents can enter the country freely, but the government hopes to start allowing foreign tourists in by the end of the year.