For much of the pandemic, Australia has been the envy of the world.
The nation leveraged its geographic isolation and resilient economy to close its borders and largely block out Covid-19. The results spoke for themselves. While other countries faced prolonged lockdowns and overwhelmed hospital systems, the majority of Australians enjoyed large public gatherings, sporting events and open societies.
The backbone of this business-as-usual way of life has been a strict limit on international arrivals and a government-run quarantine system. Together, these policies have kept the virus at bay, but separated thousands of Australian families in the process, and made it near impossible for stranded citizens overseas to return. Making the situation worse, Australia’s limit on international arrivals has been cut from a little over 6,000 to about 3,000 passengers a week as of July 14, crushing the hopes of roughly 34,000 Australians who have registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as being stuck overseas and wanting to come home.
The decision was made by the national cabinet, after recurring breaches in the quarantine system caused the highly infectious Delta variant to seep into communities across the country, exposing the fragility of Australia’s main line of defense. The new caps will be reviewed on August 31, but the federal government has indicated they will likely be in place until the end of the year. Australian officials have said reaching herd immunity is key to reopening borders.