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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 30 March 2021) . . Page.. 568 ..

continued to change. We have experienced new travel restrictions, as well as reaching a significant milestone in our pandemic response with the commencement of the COVID-19 vaccination program.

I am pleased to report that the ACT remains in a strong position in our response to COVID-19. The cooperation of the Canberra community in following the public health directions and advice is a critical reason for this success. As we move ahead with our recovery and the new COVID normal, I also wish to acknowledge the continued hard work of the frontline staff at our hospitals, testing and vaccination centres and public health teams in helping to keep the community safe.

Indeed, this has recently been formally acknowledged in recognising as Canberra Citizen of the Year all Canberra citizens who have been involved in enacting the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The shared resilience of our community despite a difficult year of dealing with this pandemic is something every Canberran should also be proud of.

I appreciate the community’s patience as we now see the COVID-19 vaccination program progressing and more and more ACT residents able to book their vaccination appointment. This is a challenging and complex program to manage; however, in conjunction with the commonwealth government, we are moving ahead with this to protect our community.

Australia is in a fortunate position, with our efforts having been largely successful to date in suppressing COVID-19. In contrast, across many areas of the world COVID-19 is still having a terrible impact on lives and communities. Health systems are under enormous strain, due to increased hospitalisations, while deaths are sadly still occurring across many regions where case numbers are high.

Many countries are entering into new states of lockdown to try and slow the rate of infection. The number of new COVID-19 cases reported globally continues to rise. As of 28 March 2021, there have been more that 126 million confirmed cases, including more than 2.76 million deaths reported to the World Health Organisation.

As members would be aware, the unfolding COVID-19 situation in our nearest pacific neighbour, Papua New Guinea, is of particular concern. The Queensland and Australian governments are rapidly responding to both protect Torres Strait Islander communities and support the Papua New Guinean government’s response, including through the provision of 8,000 AstraZeneca vaccines from Australia’s stock and deployment of the Australian Medical Assistance Teams. or AUSMAT, multidisciplinary health teams to provide assistance. We send our sincere well wishes to the people of Papua New Guinea during this extremely difficult time.

Since my last update to the Assembly, New Zealand has experienced a cluster of new COVID-19 cases which were confirmed to be a UK variant of concern. This cluster saw New Zealand’s Prime Minister announce a period of seven days lockdown in Auckland and restrictions on public gatherings across the rest of the country. The Australian Chief Medical Officer recommended the temporary suspension of the

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