(CNN) — After 697 days, the state of Western Australia has at last reopened, thus ending one of the world’s longest border closures.
Western Australia (WA) closed its borders to domestic and international visitors alike on April 5, 2020.
According to reporting from CNN affiliate Sky News, the first two flights to arrive in state capital Perth once the border restrictions were officially lifted on March 3 were from Sydney and Singapore.
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Both flights arrived shortly after midnight, and many passengers were Australian citizens finally able to visit family and loved ones for the first time since the onset of the pandemic.
Sky adds that about 5,000 people are expected to arrive in Western Australia within the first 24 hours of the border reopening and 27,800 over the following days.
“Western Australians lived lives that would have been unimaginable anywhere else in the world, free from fear of Covid-19, especially the elderly and the immunocompromised,” the state’s premier, Mark McGowan, wrote in a Facebook post ahead of the reopening. He referred to WA as “an island within an island” due to its strict measures and relative isolation.
McGowan acknowledged that the cost of remaining closed off has been high, sharing that his parents live in New South Wales.
“I understand what it means to be disconnected from family, I know how hard it can be,” McGowan wrote. “And for that, I’m so thankful to those Western Australians for their sacrifice to help keep our whole state safe.”
Rottnest Island, Western Australia’s stunning offshore paradise
In order to visit Western Australia, travelers must apply online for a G2G pass ahead of time and present the pass upon arrival at a land, air or sea border.
All international travelers must have received at least two doses of an approved coronavirus vaccine in order to visit WA, while domestic Australian visitors are required to have had three.
Anyone lucky enough to visit WA now can enjoy Perth’s buzzing nightlife scene, meet quokkas on Rottnest Island or visit Misery Beach, recently dubbed the best beach in all of Australia.
Top image: Returning international passengers are greeted on arrival at the Perth International Airport Terminal on March 03, 2022. Credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images