Australians celebrate the reunion of loved ones in Queensland after the state lifted a five-month border closure with its largest neighbors.

There were hugs and tears at airports and border towns on Monday as the families reunited after long separations.

Queensland had resented the closure of its border with Australia’s most populous states, preventing people from visiting sick relatives.

But officials attribute Queensland’s low Covid numbers to hardline policies.

The state of five million people saw around 2,000 infections during the pandemic, compared to 136,000 cases in Victoria and 86,000 in New South Wales (NSW).

Vaccinated people from the interstate can now enter Queensland without quarantine, provided they have a negative Covid test result.

Overseas travelers arriving in Queensland will have to remain under quarantine for 14 days unlike some other parts of Australia.

TV reports showed cars lining up for miles near the border before dawn on Monday. As the first vehicles crossed, the drivers honked their horns and the bystanders cheered.

Airlines said there were around 10,000 people scheduled to fly in and out of the state on Monday, and 700 flights have been booked for the week.
Queensland began isolating its population in June when delta eruptions struck Australia’s two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne.

Although these cities ended month-long lockdowns in October, Queensland chose to remain closed until 80% of the adult population was vaccinated.

Western Australia remains the only state that prohibits travel between states. It is slated to reopen at the beginning of next year.

After a slow start, Australia has emerged as one of the most vaccinated nations, with over 88% of those over 16 receiving two doses.

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Australians abroad have been allowed to return home without quarantine since November. Foreigners are still prohibited from entering the country.

But the country will reopen to migrant workers, foreign students, and a few others later this week after a nearly two-year ban.

Australia has recorded 2,072 deaths and 227,000 cases – far fewer than other OECD countries.
Great moment for a largely covid-free state
Simon Atkinson, BBC News, Brisbane

It’s not just family and friends reunited with grins as sunny as the sky over Queensland today.

The border opening at the start of the school summer break is huge for the A28bn (£ 15bn; $ 20bn) value of the state’s tourism industry, which is well into its second Christmas with no international travelers.

The arrival of interstate visitors to places like the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast is a huge relief as the busiest time of the year approaches.

But health officials have been warning for weeks that there will inevitably be many more coronavirus cases now.

And while most of the Queenslanders I’ve spoken to welcome the border opening, it will be interesting to see how the mood changes when those vacation hotspots become coronavirus hotspots too, in a state that only has one new one Covid patient can still make headlines.

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