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This week it was reported that travel restrictions to and from Australia are expected to remain in place until mid-2022. For some, this is not at all important – many Australians are far more grateful for the safety of our isolation than they are concerned about the inability to travel or have overseas visitors. For others, travel has been an essential lifestyle and this news is a disappointment and an inconvenience. And then there are thousands upon thousands of people who are cut off from loved ones in a way that feels earth-shaking.
My family situation puts me somewhere between these last two categories. My mother lives in Los Angeles. Their only grandchild and all of their four children live here in Melbourne.
My husband, who is American, moved to Australia in 2017 with a promise to his parents – who are now in their 70s and 80s – that he would visit regularly and come home immediately if needed. Those promises were broken.
The Australian government allows travel exemptions for some family members in certain circumstances, but parents and grandparents are generally not eligible for these exemptions. My son turned 16 the last time he saw one of his grandparents – the next time he sees them he will be almost 19 (at best). An adult. These are years no one can get back.
My situation is one of the least complicated and least disruptive of the many friends and family I have here who face similar circumstances. People miss births, deaths and illnesses, postpone marriages, and face isolation that feels extreme.
Is it worth protecting Australians from Covid-19? Most people would likely answer “yes”. But the question is nowhere near that simple. Our vaccination rollout is far behind other countries. Our hotel quarantine system cannot handle the number of technically allowed travelers, and many Australian citizens are still stranded overseas.
For my mother, who is now fully vaccinated, the news this week is devastating. We had been looking forward to a visit this October, a month identified by Prime Minister Scott Morrison as a possible timeframe for resuming international travel. After years of not seeing her children or grandchildren, she had desperately hoped that she could come to see us by the end of this year. That hope now seems futile.
What do you think of Australia’s travel ban? Has it affected your life a lot? Let us know at [email protected]
Now for this week’s stories: