Australia reopens borders, but only for "approved" people

(Mick Tsikas/AAP Image via AP)

Today is a day that many Australians have been looking forward to for a long time. After twenty months of some of the most brutal lockdowns and travel restrictions seen in the entire world, Australia reopened its borders, at least partially. The airport in Sydney in the state of New South Wales was the first to resume normal operations. The Associated Press described tearful scenes of citizens landing and heading out to see family members who they’ve not been able to hug for nearly two years or more. And most Australians are now able to fly out of the country “for any reason” without first seeking an exemption from the government and seeking its permission. Of course, the word “most” is an important one in that sentence. Many freedoms are being restored today, but only if you are fully vaccinated. Everyone else is still effectively being kept in jail in their own homes.

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Australia is betting that vaccination rates are now high enough to mitigate the danger of allowing international visitors again after maintaining some of the lengthiest and strictest border controls anywhere during the coronavirus pandemic.

Before the pandemic, Sydney was Australia’s busiest international airport but until Monday had been almost deserted.

The new freedoms mean that outbound fully vaccinated Australian permanent residents and citizens can leave the country for any reason without asking the government for an exemption from a travel ban that has trapped most at home since March 15, 2020.

The new freedoms are also not available to the entire country yet. Australia is composed of several states, and some of the other states are still not easing restrictions, waiting for their own vaccination rates to rise as high as what’s been reported in New South Wales. One Australian named Ethen Carter had been trapped in Los Angeles for many months and was finally able to fly back into Sydney this morning. He’s been desperately trying to get back to see his mother who is dying and isn’t expected to last much longer.

But Carter’s mother lives in the state of Western Australia. And Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan has already stated that his state’s borders will not reopen until 2022 at the earliest. Carter was told that he may be allowed to travel home to be with his mother, but he will first need to apply for an exemption from the government and await approval.

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McGowan said his government would consider allowing Carter to enter the state if he applied for an exemption.

“These situations are very sad and very difficult and we’ve seen much of this over the course over the last two years,” McGowan said.

The Premier is describing Carter’s situation as “very sad and difficult,” without giving a nod to the fact that his government is the thing making it sad and difficult. This is simply incredible.

The only possible benefit awaiting unvaccinated Australian citizens living outside of the country is the possibility that they may be allowed to fly into the country if they apply for an exemption, get it approved, and then immediately move into a hotel (at their own expense) for weeks while they are “monitored.” If they manage to get past that barrier, they will be allowed to return home. Once there, like the rest of their unvaccinated countrymen, they will once again be under what can fairly be called house arrest. Government leaders have already announced that there is no target date for easing restrictions on the unvaccinated and life will be “difficult for them.” That condition is by design, not by accident.

Australia has instituted a 21st-century caste system, with two classes of people. The vaccinated are (mostly) free to go about their business, or will be shortly. The unvaccinated are being legally defined as outcasts who will not be welcome to mingle with proper society. They won’t be able to work or even leave their own homes except for a brief period of exercise each day. And when going out for a jog or a walk, they are not to speak to any other people under pain of fines and/or detention. The entire situation is almost unimaginable.

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John Stossel 5:30 PM | July 13, 2024
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