Visiting family is once again a possibility for migrants in Australia – but risks remain

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When Ariane Sparkles announced to her mother that she would be flying away for Christmas this year, they both burst into tears.

Like many other migrants, Ms Sparkles, from the UK, had to ignore her regular family visit in 2020 due to border closures due to the pandemic.

However, the federal government allows Australian residents to leave the country freely as of Monday, and NSW and Victoria are letting them return without staying in hotel quarantine.

Ariane has not seen her parents for three and a half years, nor spent Christmas with them for 14 years, so she said she felt she had to take this opportunity to go see her parents in France, where they are living now.

“It was my mom’s 65th birthday the other day, and she was feeling really, really sad in France,” Ariane said.

“So I called her by video and asked her what she was doing on December 23, and I said to her: ‘Can you come and pick me up at Toulouse airport?’ and she burst into tears and that was really nice. “

Ariane said she had mixed feelings about going abroad while the pandemic situation was still so uncertain.

“I am not looking forward to taking the plane,” she said.

“To take a 24-hour flight, and to know that I am going to a country that has been hit harder by COVID-19 than we have been, is full of anxiety.

The Foreign Office this week lifted Smartraveller’s global ‘do not travel’ notice, but warned Australians should be aware of the risks and be careful wherever they travel as COVID-19 remains a risk for global health.

All countries are now considered “level 2”, which carries a warning to “exercise a high degree of caution” due to the risks associated with COVID-19 and the “lingering complexities of international travel”.

“Australians will also need to consider airline requirements, transit and destination countries, as well as return arrangements to Australia when deciding when and where to travel overseas,” the department said in a statement.

A man and a woman take a selfie in front of a body of water.
Erna Sukardi and her husband plan not to return to Indonesia.(Supplied.)

For some, it is still too risky to start traveling abroad again.

Erna Sukardi, from Melbourne, is desperate to see her family back in Indonesia and even has unused tickets that expire in December, but she doesn’t think she will use them.

Indonesia still requires travelers to remain in hotel quarantine for about a week after arrival, which would take too much of the fortnight’s break it has at Christmas.

She also doesn’t trust the Indonesian government case numbers and fears the situation there is worse than reported.

“We have family there that we really want to visit, but we also don’t want to catch the virus,” she said.

Ms Sukardi said having elderly in-laws added to the pressure to go.

She had heard so many stories from relatives of people suddenly falling ill and “gone.”

“But, at the same time, things are so uncertain right now.”

Travelers must “do their homework”

Burnet Institute epidemiologist Mike Toole said it was important for people to “do their homework” before deciding to take a trip.

Professor Toole said the number of active cases varied widely from country to country, each with their own requirements for inbound travelers.

“So they have to check very carefully what the requirements are well in advance of the time they travel, and then I think [while they’re there they should] take all the precautions we are used to here, ”he said.

Professor Toole said he booked a flight to Egypt on New Years Eve.

“Otherwise, practice good hygiene and try to avoid crowds, especially indoors.”

Epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws in a dark suit and glasses
Marylouise McLaws says hygiene like washing your hands with disinfectant is especially important when traveling abroad.(AAP: Mick Tsikas)

UNSW epidemiologist Marylouise McLaws said traveling to any country right now is a risk and anyone considering going abroad should weigh that against their need to travel.

Prof McLaws said people should research the daily number of new cases and the vaccination rate before making a decision.

“They have to put those two things into the equation,” she said.

It might also be helpful to test yourself regularly with rapid antigen tests to make sure you don’t have any surprises before trying to get home, she added.

She said that one thing travelers may not have considered is whether the people they live with are comfortable with them quarantining themselves at home if necessary upon their return.

“Not everyone lives alone, and I’m not sure if the government has fully identified this as a problem, that there has to be household acceptance,” said the professor, who is also a COVID member of the World Health Organization. -19 advisory committee.

A woman and two identical twins pose for a photo.
Angie Roberts plans to return home to South Sulawesi soon, but says she will likely leave her daughters in Australia.(Provided)

‘It has been a long time’

Angie Roberts, also from Indonesia, said she was still hesitant to buy a ticket to see her family in South Sulawesi.

“If it’s Indonesia I think it’s fine. My sister is a doctor so medical care is easier for me to access and there are fewer cases now, especially in my hometown. Lower than Victoria. ! ” she said,

“I’m more worried here than going back to Indonesia.”

Mount Agung bursts from a large cloud of ash
Another factor Angie Roberts needs to consider is Bali’s Mount Agung, an active volcano.(Provided: Missy Brown)

Ms Roberts said her main concerns were the costs involved – including testing in Australia and Indonesia and about a week of quarantine there.

She said she was also considering the potential of Bali’s active volcano Mount Agung to delay flights and trap it there, which would mean even more testing.

“We have travel insurance, but I don’t know during the pandemic how the travel insurance is going to go,” she said.

The last time Ms Roberts returned home was in January of last year, and she said she was inclined to make the trip.

“It’s been a long time. Almost two years now. I’ve never been back for more than a year,” she said.

“My mother is almost 80 years old and cannot go home and see her and my sister, my brother, they are all there.

“It is very important for me to return to see them.”

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