“I always wanted to move to Australia because it felt like a free country,” said German-born Magenau, who became an Australian citizen this year. “It makes the whole feeling of living in Australia quite different because, personally, it makes me feel like I’m trapped … because I can’t travel as I want to.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has held up Australia’s travel ban as an example to the world of how to avoid severe coronavirus spikes caused by citizens who are infected while on vacation.
Still, Australia is the only member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development — a group of 37 developed nations — that has banned its citizens from leaving during the pandemic.
Morrison has described the ban as “uncontroversial.” But with Australia becoming one of the most successful countries in containing the spread of the virus, some are questioning how long the ban can be justified.
Australia, with a population of 26 million, had recorded 27,541 virus cases, including 907 deaths, as of Wednesday — with 74% of the cases and 90% of the fatalities coming in the city of Melbourne and surrounding Victoria state. But Melbourne came out of lockdown on Wednesday, with authorities confident they have contained community transmission.
Government lawmaker Dave Sharma, who has represented constituents seeking his help to be allowed to travel, describes the ban as a “pretty extraordinary restriction on people’s liberty” that cannot continue “for the long term.”
While some exemptions are allowed under strict criteria, critics argue that the process lacks transparency and consistency, and that the process can be too slow.
Magenau, a 42-year-old cancer research scientist, was given an exemption to travel with her 5-year-old son, Hendrix, from their home in Sydney to Stuttgart, Germany. But the weeklong process to get the exemption was too slow for a medical emergency. She didn’t reach Germany until after her 76-year-old father, Horst Magenau, had already been cremated after dying from metastatic melanoma.
“He became worse. We thought he was stable,” she said. “He lived for about five or six days and I thought I could make it out (of Australia), but that didn’t work,” Magenau said.
The funeral could not be delayed until she arrived.
“I wasn’t actually able to say goodbye to his body,” Magenau said. “It sounds silly, but that’s what I had wanted.”
She described the ordeal as “traumatic as it was unnecessary.”
Sydney lawyer Adam Byrnes said by far the majority