Right time to open Australia’s gates and relax international border | The Canberra Times

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When Australia’s international borders reopen on Monday, the country will take another step towards becoming accustomed to life in an ongoing pandemic. The initial border closure, which had been criticized by the World Health Organization when it was made in March 2020, was prudent. It allowed Australia to prevent a rapid escalation of COVID-19 case numbers at a time when the world was still rushing to understand the ramifications of the novel coronavirus. But experts – including Deakin University’s chair of epidemiology, Catherine Bennett – point out Australia is in a better position now than it was in 2019 to respond to a pandemic. The systems are in place, and the plans are fresh and ready to go if the situation escalates. The high levels of COVID-19 vaccination – despite the calls of loud and irrational protesters who have filled Canberra’s public spaces in recent weeks – mean the coronavirus presents a much lower population-wide risk than it did in the early months of 2020. Life in a pandemic is full of reminders that there is no set end date. Instead, governments, and the people they represent, can only adjust, pivot and reassess. Circumstances change, and restrictions will need to be adapted as needed. Reopening the international border is a recognition there is no need to keep COVID out when it has already breached the citadel. Reuniting with the world gives hope to all those who have made sacrifices these past two years that they can again see their families and loved ones. This winter is expected to bring the first flu season since 2019, alongside a probable spike in COVID-19 cases as more gatherings take place indoors. Influenza travels around the world with people, and the quarantine system in place in Australia had kept it out during the COVID era. But shutting off the country indefinitely is not a reasonable answer. Viruses find a way through even the harshest border controls, as Australian states and territories discovered. The Premier of Western Australia, Mark McGowan, on Friday announced a new date for the removal of the hard border between his state and the rest of the country. The border will be removed – and the federation reunited – on March 3. “Eventually there comes a point where the border is ineffective when you get to high case numbers within the state,” Mr McGowan told reporters. He is right. The same applies for the rest of the country, where one in 10 Australians has now experienced a COVID-19 infection. It is the right time to reopen to the world, when there is no longer any justification for shutting it – and its ever-present risks – out. Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:

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