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US shocked that Australians will be stranded abroad this Christmas

 It’s no secret that Australia’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been, for the most part, a success.

In comparison to other Western nations — the United Kingdom and the United States chief among them — our conduct and swift uptake of restrictions has been lauded by leaders, experts and media around the globe.

But 10 days from Christmas, and on the doorstep of a COVID-normal 2021 spent waiting for a vaccine to be approved and administered, one “draconian” rule unfairly penalizing Aussies has drawn the world’s attention.

“Anxious, angry and abandoned. Less than two weeks from Christmas, at least 39,000 Australian citizens and permanent residents are still stranded overseas due to Australia’s international arrival caps,” Jessie Gretener wrote in a piece for CNN today.

“Hitching a ride on Santa’s sleigh now seems like the only option for those making it home for the holidays.”

In September, the cap on international arrivals – a measure initially introduced in mid-July after a hotel quarantine bungle led to Victoria’s devastating second wave – was raised to 6000 per week, and then increased again in November.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters he intended to get “as many people (as possible home, if not all of them, by Christmas”, while Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said he wanted to “ensure that every Australian who wants to come home is home by Christmas”.

And yet, tens of thousands of Australians remain stuck overseas as life here slowly returns to normal – drawing criticism from a number of prominent publications in America which have deemed the measures not only “close to unreasonable” and “extreme”, but questioned whether it’s a potential “breach of international law”.

“Australia is one of the few places in the world that is barring citizens from leaving their own country and limiting the number of those who can return,” a September piece in The New York Times read.

“The tough regulations have raised legal concerns about the right to freedom of movement, and have been especially painful for the large numbers of Australians who turn to travel as a balm against the tyranny of distance from the rest of the world.”

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