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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 02 Hansard (Tuesday, 9 February 2021) . . Page.. 277 ..

COVID-19 pandemic response—update

Ministerial statement

MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Families and Community Services and Minister for Health) (10.09): I rise today to provide to the Legislative Assembly the first update of 2021 on the COVID-19 situation in the ACT, and the plans, preparations and actions the government continues to take to protect the health and wellbeing of Canberrans.

Much has happened since my last update on 2 December 2020, both in Australia and around the world. The situation has, unfortunately, taken a turn for the worse in many countries which are experiencing a rising wave of infections and the emergence of more transmissible strains of the virus. However, I am both pleased and relieved to report that the ACT continues to remain in a strong position.

I am proud to say that the ACT community continues to be amazingly cooperative and supportive, which has been so vital to our response to COVID-19. I appreciate that this has been another difficult time for ACT residents seeking to relax over the holiday period; instead, many have had to cancel or modify planned celebrations, travel and get-togethers.

The situation we are seeing overseas is alarming, and a clear reminder, if one was needed, of the need to maintain our public health measures and work together as a community to maintain our vigilance in stopping the spread. The number of new COVID-19 cases reported globally continues to rise rapidly. As of 8 February 2021, there have been more than 105 million confirmed cases, including more than 2.3 million deaths reported to the World Health Organisation.

The surge in cases has resulted in many countries introducing nationwide lockdowns or returning to a state of lockdown to try and slow the rate of infection. In countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, health systems are under enormous strain due to high rates of hospitalisation and deaths related to COVID-19. It has been a grim beginning to the new year for many communities around the world and an immense challenge for all governments.

In Australia we have seen recent clusters in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as cases linked to hotel quarantine in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, prompt rapid action and response to help protect our community. This has put our community and our public health teams to the test, but we can all be proud of how they have responded.

We have also seen the emergence of the new and more transmissible strains of COVID in Australia, prompting a three-day lockdown in Brisbane, a five-day lockdown in Perth, and increased restrictions in Melbourne following the identification of staff involved with hotel quarantine becoming infected with more virulent strains of the disease.

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