Australia closed its borders in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic spread globally. Last week, it extended Sydney’s lockdown for a second since time since its initiation in mid-June.
The Australian border is likely to remained closed until mid-2022. Over 40,000 Australians are registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs as ‘stranded.’ This means they want to return home but cannot either because of a lack of flights or expensive, mandatory 14-day hotel quarantines.
Famous Australians and foreign celebrities, however, have been granted exemptions from these restrictions. Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch as well as actress Nicole Kidman and her husband Keith Urban are among the elite group who have been allowed to travelled back to country via private plane. They were also permitted to quarantine at their private homes.
Kidman flew to Australia last year to film Nine Perfect Strangers, her new mini-series. The project reportedly brought a $100 million to the Southern Highland economy during the five months of production. Despite this, her Tennessee to New South Wales trip and home quarantine outraged many Australians when photographs of the couple at their Southern Highland estate were published last July.
In a Daily Mail Australia poll, 81% of respondents disapproved of Kidman’s exemption saying “everyone should be treated the same” regardless of celebrity status.
Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr. Jeannette Young reported that “38 exemptions in total had been granted so far, for film and TV industry figures, consular officials, Australian Defense Force personnel, and oil and gas industry workers” per Forbes. States independently oversee required quarantines.
Caitlyn Jenner was among those permitted to travel to Australia, reportedly to film the TV show Big Brother. The reality TV star, who is hoping to unseat California Governor Gavin Newsom this September, denied reports her campaign was paused.
I am honoring a work commitment that I had made prior to even deciding to run for governor. There is no pause at all on this race to save CA!
— Caitlyn Jenner (@Caitlyn_Jenner) July 16, 2021
“This is ridiculous…There are literally flights that are returning with zero people on them because of travel caps, but she can fly into the country,” Sky News host Paul Murray said on July 18.
British commentator Katie Hopkins, who was also in Australia to film Big Brother, was deported for comments she made online about breaking the country’s quarantine regulations.
While participating in a two-week hotel quarantine, Hopkins “posted a video on Instagram joking about answering the door naked and maskless to people delivering meals while she was in hotel quarantine,” according to Reuters. The video has now been removed.
Under Australian rules, people in hotel quarantine “must put on a mask before meals are delivered then wait 30 seconds to collect the food to avoid transmission.” They are also not allowed to open windows for fresh air.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said Hopkins said, according to AP News, “It’s appalling that this individual behaved the way that she did and she will be leaving…We will be getting her out of the country as soon as we can arrange that.”
Hopkins left on a commercial flight Sunday night. The Australian government has not announced a clear plan to repatriate the Australians trapped abroad.
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