Connect with us

World

Australia eases international border restrictions for first time in pandemic

Published

on

November 1, 2021

SYDNEY (Reuters) -Australia eased its international border restrictions on Monday for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic, allowing some of its vaccinated public to travel freely and many families to reunite, sparking emotional embraces at Sydney’s airport.

After 18 months of some of the world’s strictest coronavirus border policies, millions of Australians are now free to travel without a permit or the need to quarantine on arrival in the country.

While travel is initially limited to Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families, it sets in motion a plan to reopen the country to international tourists and workers, both much needed to reinvigorate a fatigued nation.

Advertisement

Passengers on the first flights from Singapore and Los Angeles arrived in Sydney early in the morning, many greeted by tearful friends and relatives they had not seen for several months. Travellers were also welcomed by airline staff holding banners and were gifted Australian wildflowers and chocolate biscuits.

“Little bit scary and exciting, I’ve come home to see my mum ’cause she’s not well,” said Ethan Carter after landing on a Qantas Airways flight from Los Angeles.

“So it’s all anxious and excitement and I love her heaps and I can’t wait to see her,” he said, adding that he had been out of the country for two years.

In one of the world’s toughest responses to the coronavirus pandemic, Australia slammed its international border shut 18 months ago, barring foreign tourists and banning citizens from either exiting or arriving unless granted an exemption.

The strict travel rules effectively prohibited many Australians from attending significant events, including weddings and funerals, as well as preventing people from seeing family and friends.

Advertisement

“It’s a day for celebration – the fact that Australians can move more freely in and out of our country without home quarantine, if they’re double-vaccinated,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

There are 16 scheduled international flight arrivals at Sydney’s airport on Monday, and 14 scheduled departures, the airport operator said. Foreign ministry data shows about 47,000 people abroad are keen to return home.

The relaxation of travel rules in Victoria and New South Wales states and the Australian Capital Territory comes as much of Australia switches from a COVID-zero pandemic management strategy towards living with the virus through extensive vaccinations.

While the Delta outbreak kept Sydney and Melbourne in lockdowns for months until recently, Australia’s COVID-19 cases remain far lower than many comparable countries, with just over 170,500 infections and 1,735 deaths.

NO TOURISTS YET

Advertisement

The change in travel rules, however, is not uniform across the country, with states and territories having differing vaccination rates and health policies.

Western Australia, which takes in one of the world’s biggest iron ore precincts, remains largely cut off from the rest of the country – and the world – as the state tries to protect its virus-free status.

And while Thailand and Israel were due to welcome vaccinated tourists from Monday, foreign travellers were not yet welcome in Australia, with the exception of those from neighbouring New Zealand.

“We still have a long way to go in terms of the recovery of our sector, but allowing fully vaccinated Australians to travel without quarantine will provide the template for bringing back students, business travellers, and tourists from all over the world,” Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert said.

Citizens of Singapore are the next group to be allowed entry, from Nov. 21.

Advertisement

Unvaccinated travellers will still face quarantine restrictions and all travellers need proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding.

Australia previously let only a limited number of citizens and permanent residents return from abroad, with a mandatory 14-day quarantine period in a hotel at their own expense. There were also some exemptions for foreign travellers on economic grounds, including, controversially, some Hollywood stars.

(Reporting by Jonathan Barrett, Jamie Freed, Jill Gralow, James Redmayne and Lidia Kelly; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Richard Pullin and Jane Wardell)

Advertisement
Continue Reading
Advertisement

World

Russian court remands mine director, inspectors in custody after deadly accident

Published

on

November 27, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A court in Siberia on Saturday remanded five people in custody for two months to face charges related to a mining accident that killed more than 50 people this week.

Three managers of the Listvyazhnaya mine, including its director, were ordered to remain in custody until late January for flouting industrial safety standards, a spokesperson for the regional prosecutor’s office said.

The court also ordered two safety inspectors, who had issued a certificate for the mine this month but had not actually checked the facility, to remain in custody until late January.

Advertisement

The accident, which regional authorities say was likely caused by a methane explosion, claimed the lives of 51 people, including five rescuers who were sent to bring out dozens of men stuck deep underground.

The health ministry said on Saturday that 60 people were being treated in hospital for injuries sustained at the mine, TASS news agency reported.

The accident at the mine, located some 3,500 km (2,200 miles) east of Moscow in the Kemerovo region, was Russia’s worst since 2010 when explosions killed 91 people at the Raspadskaya mine in the same region.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Christina Fincher)

Advertisement
Continue Reading

World

Russia spy chief says Ukraine invasion plan ‘malicious’ U.S. propaganda

Published

on

November 27, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia has no plans to invade Ukraine and suggestions to the contrary are malicious U.S. propaganda, Moscow’s foreign intelligence chief said on Saturday.

U.S., NATO and Ukrainian officials have raised the alarm in recent weeks over what they say are unusual Russian troop movements near the border with Ukraine, suggesting that Moscow may be poised to launch an attack.

Russia has repeatedly said it is free to move its troops on its own territory and that such movements should not be a cause for concern.

Advertisement

“I need to reassure everyone. Nothing like this is going to happen,” Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, said in an interview broadcast on state television, referring to comments on Russia’s alleged invasion plans.

“Everything that is happening around this topic right now is of course malicious propaganda by the U.S. State Department.”

Naryshkin spoke a day after the State Department’s top U.S. diplomat for European affairs said all options were on the table in how to respond to Russia’s troop buildup near Ukraine’s border and that NATO would decide on the next move after consultations next week.

While U.S. officials have voiced concerns about a possible Russian attack on Ukraine, Moscow has accused Washington, Kyiv and NATO of provocative and irresponsible behaviour near its borders.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Advertisement

Continue Reading

World

Spanish police march in Madrid to protest against ‘Gag Law’ reform

Published

on

November 27, 2021

By Miguel Gutierrez and Marco Trujillo

MADRID (Reuters) – Thousands of Spanish police officers marched through Madrid on Saturday to protest against a proposed reform of a security law which they say will hamper their ability to do their work.

Politicians from Spain’s three main conservative parties joined police officers in the protest against proposed changes to the 2015 Citizens Security Law, which critics say violates the right to protest and limits free expression.

Advertisement

Dubbed the “Gag Law” by those who oppose it, the legislation allows authorities to fine media organisations for distributing unauthorised images of police, strictly limits demonstrations and imposes heavy fines for offenders.

Spain’s leftist government has proposed reforms including no longer classifying the taking of photographs or making of recordings of police at demonstrations as a serious offence.

Under the changes, police will also have to use less harmful materials at protests after a number of people were seriously injured by rubber bullets fired by officers.

The time that suspects who are arrested at protests can be held in custody will be cut from six hours to two and fines will be proportional to how much offenders earn.

“They should either leave the current law as it is or make it better for the police and for the citizens,” Civil Guard officer Vanessa Gonzalez told Reuters.

Advertisement

Ivan Espinosa de los Monteros, of the far-right Vox party, said: “There is strong opposition against (the reform) of this law. It is against our police and we will not let it happen.”

However, Isa Serra, spokeswoman for the far-left Unidas Podemos party, said at a rally in Cantabria in northern Spain that the law had done a “lot of damage to Spanish democracy”.

Organisers said 150,000 people took part in the Madrid demonstration but the government put the figure at 20,000.

(Reporting by Graham Keeley, Miguel Gutierrez and Marco Trujillo; Editing by Alexander Smith)

Advertisement
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Trending