21 February 2022

ACT records one death, 458 cases of COVID-19 as international borders open to tourists

| Lottie Twyford
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Empty airport

It’s been almost two years since Australia first closed its borders to the world in response to the pandemic. Now, tourists will begin trickling back. Photo: Region Media.

A man in his 80s has become the 33rd person to die with COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic in the ACT. ACT Health has extended its condolences to the man’s family.

The Territory has recorded 458 cases of COVID-19, and the number of COVID patients in hospital continues to trend downwards. There are now 37 people in hospital, including one in intensive care being ventilated.

The new cases reported today from 1240 PCR and 1502 RAT results take the ACT’s active caseload to 2,742 (1240 PCR and 1502 RAT)

There have been 45,086 (32,604 PCR and 12,482 RAT) cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic reported in the ACT.

The vaccination rate for the ACT’s 12-plus population remains 98.6 per cent, and 64.7 per cent of residents aged 16 and older have received a booster.

Of ACT residents aged 5 to 11, 77.5 per cent have received one dose.

Meanwhile, almost two years after Australia first closed its borders to all non-citizens and non-residents, international tourists have begun arriving in the country.

Today alone, more than 50 international flights will touch down and visitors are being welcomed with music and gifts, including toy koalas, Tim Tams and Vegemite.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday sought to defend the border restrictions that have been in place for two years, saying it was thanks to Australians who have “done the hard yards” that the country can now reopen.

“We are very excited that from tomorrow international flights for visitors are able to return again,” he said.

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Tourism Australia has launched a $40 million advertising campaign to remind the world ‘Australia is still here’ and bring international tourists back.

Arrivals to Australia must have received at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. Unvaccinated visitors will still need to apply for an exemption and undergo a period of mandatory hotel quarantine.

It’s expected the local tourism sector will not see a significant uptick in visitors and dollars for some time. A few weeks ago, Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said that Canberra Airport wouldn’t be likely to see international flights for some time.

From today, non-essential elective surgeries will make a gradual return at Calvary Public Hospital. It’s understood there’s a backlog of around 500 procedures which were delayed after some surgeries were halted in early January at the peak of the Omicron wave.

Public health measures eased significantly on Friday in the ACT, with density limits and the ban on dancing and drinking/eating while standing up removed.

Further announcements about the indoor mask mandate and the use of QR codes to check into some venues are expected later this week from the ACT Government.

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Interstate, NSW has reported seven deaths overnight and 4916 new cases (3657 RAT and 1259 PCR).

There are now 1288 people in hospital with the virus and 74 people in ICUs around the state.

Victoria has reported three deaths overnight and an additional 5611 cases of COVID-19 from 4104 RATs and 1507 PCR tests.

There are now 361 people hospitalised with the virus in the state.

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