Live Covid-19 updates: mask mandates, vaccines and more

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Passengers arriving at Sydney’s international airport on Monday were greeted by lifeguards, drag queens and the DJ of the dawn of local hits, as Australia reopened its borders to international visitors after nearly two years of trying to cut itself off from the rest of the world. Keep the corona virus at bay.

The country closed its international borders in March 2020 as part of its response to the pandemic, stranding citizens abroad and separating their loved ones. Although the government gradually relaxed strict restrictions late last year — first easing quarantine requirements for citizens, then allowing international students and some visa holders to return — tourists remained banned and some residents continued to be isolated from friends and family.

More than 50 international flights were scheduled to land in Australia on Monday from countries including the United States, Britain, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. In Sydney, the first visitors arrived from Los Angeles shortly after 6 a.m., with travelers gifted toys stuffed with koalas and jars of vegemite, a classic condiment, upon landing.

“It was a party here at Sydney Airport; everyone is partying,” Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said at an airport news conference Monday morning. “It was uncommon to see the way people were reunited – hugs, tears.”

Australia’s reopening comes as other countries in Asia are also easing restrictions even as the Omicron wave continues to rattle the region. last week, Japan announced It will ease its border restrictions to allow more international students and visa holders to enter the country starting in March. And South Koreawhich was recently Over 100,000 new cases reported dailyPeople who have tested positive for coronavirus are being asked to take care of themselves at home, so the state can redirect resources to the most vulnerable.

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Potential travelers and tourism operators alike are cautiously optimistic about the reopening of “Fortress Australia”, but many are questioning whether Covid restrictions in the quarantined country – such as vaccines and testing requirements, as well as mask mandates – will make the return of international travel more of a trickle than a splash.

Travelers must show proof of vaccination to enter Australia without having to be quarantined in a hotel, and they must submit a negative coronavirus test taken within 24 hours of departure. Unvaccinated travelers must obtain an exemption from state authorities to be allowed entry and must self-quarantine upon arrival.

Mr Tehan has brushed off concerns that Australia’s reputation for adhering to strict safety measures during the pandemic – runs counter to its inviting and calm nature. Pictured by the country’s tourism boards Travelers may also be turned away. “People look at Australia as if they have always looked at Australia,” he said, “warm, welcoming, with the best and best attractions and the best sites to go to anywhere in the world.”

It is unclear how long it will take for the tourism industry to recover. Questions remain about whether travelers from China, Australia’s largest tourist market, will return. The United States and New Zealand recommended against traveling to Australia due to omicron eruption. In January, Australia recorded the highest average injuries ever, while February was the month with the highest average deaths.

Margie Osmond, chief executive of Tourism and Transport Australia, said tourism operators are starting to see an increase “in bookings for the second half of this year”.

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But Monday’s trips were the first steps on the way back. Obviously, she said, “It will take some time to get to the pre-pandemic numbers, but this is the beginning. This is the beginning.”

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