International travel to Australia resumed on Monday, nearly two years after the country closed its borders to tourists.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a press conference on Sunday that 1.2 million people worldwide already have “visas”.
“The wait is over,” he said. “Tourists keep coming back, and my message to them is – to tourists everywhere – pack your bags.”
British tourist Sue Witton told Sky News on Monday she had not seen her son for 724 days as they met at Melbourne airport.
“I don’t want to let it go, it’s just beautiful,” she said.
There are no quarantine requirements for vaccinated visitors as part of the reopening. The exception is Western Australia, the largest state by land area, which continues to require travelers to quarantine for seven days until a scheduled change on March 3.
Unvaccinated tourists over the age of 12 must remain in quarantine for 14 days unless they have a valid exemption.
For the first 18 months of the pandemic, Australia banned nearly all visitors, earning it the nicknames ‘Fortress Australia’ and ‘Hermit’s Kingdom’, and demanded that citizens and residents of return pay two weeks of costly hotel quarantine. Caps on returning Australians meant many were stuck overseas, unable to see sick loved ones or attend weddings or funerals.