Loved ones have been reunited and tears shed at Melbourne Airport as Victoria opens up to quarantine-free travel for people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 alongside Sydney which also saw its first arrivals this morning.
Singapore Airlines flight 237 landed at Melbourne airport on Monday morning after flying from Changi Airport, the first of five international planes scheduled across the day.
Singapore-based pilot Jasper Singh was the first passenger to step off the plane.
He wasn’t able to return earlier as he would have had to do two weeks quarantine each way every time if he came back.
He hasn’t seen his family in one and a half years and can’t wait to give his three teenage kids a big hug.
“It’s really tough because I can’t come here and they can’t come there,” he said.
Sammy Wright has been trying to get back to Melbourne from Dublin for a long time with her one-year-old daughter Tilly, who will meet her grandmother for the first time.
“It’s really overwhelming. It’s been hard. We’re just happy to be here,” she said.
Children aged under 12 arriving with fully vaccinated parents and people with a valid medical exemption won’t need to quarantine.
Fully vaccinated international arrivals touching down in the state from Monday will no longer have to undergo 14 days in quarantine, as long as they provide a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure and another 24 hours after arrival.
Victoria won’t cap the number of fully vaccinated returning Australians entering the state, but unvaccinated people and international arrivals who don’t meet the criteria will be limited to 250 per week.
The same changes have also been made in NSW with the first flights touching down at Sydney International Airport this morning.
In a move that will ramp up domestic flights along the Melbourne-Sydney route, restrictions have been lifted on travel between Victoria, NSW and the ACT from Monday.
Krista Kim from Point Cook, whose father died from COVID-19, had an emotional reunion with her Sydney-based daughter Phillipa and her two granddaughters Selma, 2, and Kimiya, 5.
“I just recovered from a heart attack 10 days ago. It’s really special,” she told reporters.
She is expecting her other daughter to arrive from Amsterdam on Tuesday.
Melbourne Airport chief executive Lyell Strambi said there was a buzz in the airport for the first time in months.
Usually, about 20,000 people work at the airport daily but that figure dropped to as low as 500 at various stages in the 20 months since the pandemic began.
“We were one of the first industries into the crisis,” Mr Strambi said.
“We had our lowest day, only two weeks ago. So it’s not as if it’s been smooth sailing. It’s been awful.”
Melbourne airport is expecting five international flights to land across the day, with about 300 to 400 passengers arriving and departing.
By Christmas time the airport is counting on about 34,000 seats available a week, including internationally, while domestic traffic at Melbourne airport will rise to 50 or 60 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
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