Her efforts to flout Australia’s strict quarantine regime struck a raw nerve in a country where some 11 million residents are in lockdown to curb outbreaks of the delta variant of the coronavirus. Tens of thousands of citizens are stranded abroad, because authorities have capped the number of international arrivals to relieve pressure on the hotel quarantine system, which requires anyone who enters the country to spend two weeks in a hotel at their own expense.
Hopkins had come to Australia for the reality television show “Big Brother VIP.” Australia is officially closed to everyone but citizens, residents and their immediate family. But exceptions are made for some foreigners, including sports teams and celebrities, deemed to be making an important economic contribution.
New South Wales state put in place a plan last year to allow film companies to bring celebrities in for big projects that would create jobs during the pandemic. Its health minister, Brad Hazzard, said he was “shocked” by Hopkins’s behavior.
“To think that she could actually think that the measures we are taking to keep our community safe can be treated with such juvenile, imbecilic behavior is just mind-boggling,” Hazzard told reporters Monday, adding: “I hope she’s on the first plane back.”
In a statement Monday, Australia’s Seven Network and Endemol Shine Australia said that Hopkins “is not part of ‘Big Brother VIP,’ ” adding that they “strongly condemn her irresponsible and reckless comments in hotel quarantine.”
In a video posted to Instagram, Hopkins criticized the strict rules, saying in an expletive-ridden rant that she thought it was ridiculous that she could enter the country when others could not.
“Lockdown is and remains the greatest hoax in human history,” she said in the video.
Hopkins said that when food was dropped off at her Sydney hotel room where she was set to quarantine for 14 days, she was required to wait 30 seconds to open the door while wearing a mask.
Instead, Hopkins — giggling — said she had been trying to surprise quarantine officials by sprinting to the door when she heard a knock, opening it “naked with no face mask.” The antics were “one game that I’m playing” with authorities at the hotel, she said, adding that she hoped the tricks would get an official to reprimand her so she could stand naked in front of him as well.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews announced on the state broadcaster ABC earlier Monday that Hopkins’s visa had been canceled over the incident, which she described as “despicable” and “appalling.”
The caption of Hopkins’s video said it contained “extreme humour,” adding, “I have never broken quarantine.”
A representative for Hopkins did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Early Monday local time, Hopkins reposted a video to her Instagram story criticizing the fear over the delta variant.
Australians stranded abroad, meanwhile, and other residents who are unable to leave the country for fear they won’t be able to return, aired their displeasure at Hopkins’s actions.
Rachel Oppen, an American living in Sydney with her Australian American husband and 11-year-old son, said it is “super, super frustrating that people like [Hopkins] are able to come through and yet we can’t go home, even though we are vaccinated.”
Oppen, a tech consultant who is from Ann Arbor, Mich., said she normally travels to the United States two or three times a year but hasn’t seen her family since January 2020 because of the travel restrictions.
“It’s a long time, especially for a child my son’s age, and with older parents it’s a challenge, too,” she said. “For me, there’s a constant anxiety level because I can’t go home and I don’t know when I’ll be able to go home. You don’t know who is going to be there when you get back.”
The decision to deport Hopkins comes as the worst coronavirus outbreak in almost a year led officials Saturday to tighten lockdown restrictions in Sydney, the country’s most populous city, shutting down all nonessential retail and pausing all construction work.
The city’s 5 million residents are only allowed to leave their homes to exercise outdoors or to shop for groceries. Neighboring Victoria state went into lockdown last week as well after a group of interstate furniture movers sparked a string of coronavirus cases.
The outbreaks in Australia are small by global standards; the largest, in Sydney, started with an airport limousine driver and has grown to a little more than 1,300 cases. Unlike many countries where the virus has long circulated in the community, Australia has sought to quash any outbreaks down to zero.
Hopkins has a history of inflammatory comments. In 2017, she tweeted that a “final solution” was needed after the Manchester, England, bombing at an Ariana Grande concert killed more than 20 people. She deleted the tweet and said her use of the Nazi term for its genocide of Jews was a “typo.”
Michael Miller contributed to this report.