Hugs and tears of joy at Perth airport as WA reopens its border

‘Australia is now finally back together’ as final jurisdiction welcomes vaccinated travellers

The arrivals hall at Perth airport was filled with joy and hugs when the first planes to take advantage of Western Australia’s border reopening landed on Thursday.

After spending almost 700 days behind a hard border during the coronavirus pandemic, the “hermit” state of WA has finally welcomed vaccinated travellers.

About 5,000 people will arrive on Thursday across 22 domestic flights and five international flights, and tens of thousands are expected to follow in the coming weeks.

Arriving passengers at the Qantas domestic terminal in Perth, Australia.

Ten international flights from Dubai, Singapore, Doha, Kuala Lumpur and Auckland, were expected to bring 2,000 arrivals by Friday.

The first flight to hit the ground after midnight was a Qantas “red eye” from Sydney.

Jubilant scenes lifted the domestic terminal as the more than 200 passengers were greeted by family and friends.

Television footage showed passengers crying, “I’m so excited!” and, “Finally!”

One of those travellers was the federal Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, who will be campaigning in the seats of Pearce and Hasluck from Thursday to Saturday.

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, was also expected to visit WAbut was still isolating in Sydney, recovering from Covid.
WA is the last jurisdiction in Australia to open its border to air travellers but there are some restrictions, including a requirement to be triple vaccinated, complete a travel entry pass and wear masks in the terminal. It’s already a national requirement to wear a mask on planes.

“Australia is now finally back together,” said the Qantas chief executive, Alan Joyce. “This day has been a long time coming. It will be an emotional day for those reuniting with loved ones.”

Vaccinated arrivals are no longer required to quarantine, but measures such as mask wearing, proof of vaccination and venue capacity limits are in place.

WA’s premier, Mark McGowan, originally planned to reopen on Saturday 5 February when double-dose vaccination rates in the state hit 90% but this was delayed due to the spread of the Omicron variant over the summer.

A hug at Perth international airport
Five international flights and 22 domestic were were expected to land on Thursday Photograph: Paul Kane/Getty Images

McGowan dramatically backflipped on the timing just 16 days out from the promised opening date.

He denied state hospitals weren’t ready but said Omicron had changed the game and he did not want to see an overwhelming wave like those in Sydney and Melbourne.

The condemnation was swift and so was the dip in McGowan’s polling numbers.

Australia’s most popular premier nosedived from an approval rating of 91% in September 2020 to 64% by February 2022, according to a phone-based People’s Voice poll.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *