Australia international travel ban: What other countries are saying about our closed borders

Our pandemic performance is the yardstick by which other countries are measured, but it's come at a cost. We've had plenty to say about the restrictions that keep us locked in – and even some of our countrymen locked out – but what does the rest of the world think? A straw poll of media reports and responses from readers, reveals some surprises.

The view from the UK

Want to get a British person cross? Not just your standard who-won-the-Ashes peeved but thoroughly, hopping mad? Tell them they can't come to Australia right now. That's what a story in UK's The Telegraph did on June 14, 2021, quoting Prime Minister Scott Morrison's statement at the G7 summit, to the effect that border restrictions that protect the lives and livelihoods of Australians will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

The Telegraph ran the story under the headline "Australia to keep borders closed to Britons for the foreseeable future". That's disingenuous, and calculated to inflame. True, Brits can't come as they might wish, but neither can Germans, Chinese, Mexicans or anyone else except for those who have been in New Zealand for the previous 14 days.

The story also noted that Australia has kept its borders closed to British visitors, despite Australia's inclusion on the UK's green list, which gives Australians entry to the UK with only minimum COVID-related conditions.

The thought that those damned colonials have fought the pandemic almost to a standstill by bolting the door against all comers struck a nerve.

"Australia - 20 hours ahead and 20 years behind in splendid isolation … Zero case policies are condemning Oz citizens to years of trauma - good luck with that," wrote Andy McNeilis

"Morrison is happy to see risk averse medical advice take control of the country because he is too weak to even contemplate a plan to reopen the inhuman border closures," opined Timothy Hossack

"Australia can do whatever it wants and sing its own praises, but the world notices that it is a prison nation, in which its' own citizens are not allowed to leave," wrote Alex Taylor, playing the ever-popular convict card.

"LOL. This is the country that closed its borders with India and no flights in from that country and yet they get the Indian variant! Fools, just too stupid to realise the variants don't know borders and do not originate from a particular country but are a result of mutation," wrote Angela Warden


America has its say

In an article first published on May 19, "Australia, 'Hermit Nation'? Some Warn Against Another Year of Shut Borders", the New York Times charted Australia's success in combating COVID-19, but at the price of tough border closures that include locking out some of its own citizens. Almost 240 readers took to their keyboard to respond, some applauding but slightly more expressing surprise, dismay and contempt that any nation might keep its borders closed for so long, and vaccinate its citizens so slowly.

"They are just doing what every other country wishes they could do," posted Dudesworth from Colorado. "Do people really care about missing out on international students for another year?"

In a riposte, Ganyavya from California expressed a popular argument, writing "No country should ban their own citizens. This kind of radical approach this late into the pandemic and when highly effective vaccines are available is just foolish. Government should be focusing on vaccination and reopening."

"Sad story of a major country paralysed by fear and paranoia," wrote Colleen from Brooklyn.

"2022? What madness. At a certain point you have to weigh the risks and get back to business as usual," according to "N" of New York City

"A country that had done well up to this point, fails in the end game. Based on American rates, Australia could be fully vaccinated in seven weeks," from Kurt in Thousand Oaks, California

In a response to a comment by lkmassey28 of San Francisco, prevented from visiting family in Australia, Mike of New Jersey wrote "Not sure there is much reason to want to be a part of the world right now. They have handled this beautifully and no amount of handwringing can change that fact. One should look beyond their personal family hardships when the entire world is suffering under the yoke of a preventable pandemic."

"Not our business. Let them do what is best for their people, and I wish them my best. How many have died there, how many have died here? That's the absolute bottom line." wrote Phyliss Dalmatian from Wichita, Kansas.

"Stay the course, stay safe. The world is not going anywhere, but COVID still is. You've all done the world proud. See you next year," from Greg in Sacramento.

"Brilliant, careful nation and leadership. While ours tosses our unvaccinated kids under the bus," from Fred Talbot of Virginia Beach

"With lethal and more transmittable variants still rampant and spreading on every continent, is it really that important to come home to visit grandma?", from B.L. in Missouri.

Passages from India

In May 2021, fear of the more infectious delta strain of the coronavirus raging in India prompted the Australian government to ban even its own citizens from returning from that country but reports in India's media were muted.

That month The Hindu, a leading English-language daily newspaper based in Chennai, reported the Australian government's ban on its citizens returning from India, with a possible jail term of five years and a fine of $66,000, yet expressing only mild surprise.

The Times of India, the country's other major English-language daily, carried a similar report, adding that human rights organisations were calling the move racist. The same article noted that in threatening its own citizens with jail for the crime of returning to their country of citizenship, Australia notched up a world first. A few days later the Times reported that Australia was set to resume repatriation flights from India.

Commenting on the ban was muted, with just one brief post from Vipul Acharya appearing to signal approval of the ban, saying "Right decision in interests of their citizens".

See also: Australia needs to re-join the world and ditch the fortress mentality, now

See also: Australia should adopt the UK's approach to international travel