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COVID latest: Queen Elizabeth tests positive, Australia’s first international tourists touch down

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Queen Elizabeth II has tested positive for COVID-19 but will continue working as she experiences mild, cold-like symptoms, Buckingham Palace has confirmed.

The triple-vaccinated monarch, who turns 96 in April, will isolate and undertake “light” duties at Windsor Castle over the coming week.

“She will continue to receive medical attention and will follow all the appropriate guidelines,” the palace said in a statement.

The Queen’s diagnosis comes just days before the UK is expected to drop the legal requirement to complete at least five days of self-isolation.

Her eldest son Prince Charles, 73, and his wife Camila, 74, recently contracted COVID-19 but Charles has since returned to work.

There are also reported to be several recent virus cases among staff at Windsor Castle, where the queen is staying.

Senior British politicians sent get-well messages.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “I’m sure I speak for everyone in wishing Her Majesty The Queen a swift recovery from COVID and a rapid return to vibrant good health.”

Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer wished the queen “good health and a speedy recovery. Get well soon, Ma’am.”

The Queen returned to public duties this month and has held audiences both virtually and in person with diplomats, politicians and senior military officers.

Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, she reached the milestone of 70 years on the throne on February 6, the anniversary of the death in 1952 of her father King George VI.

She has been in robust health for most of her reign and was photographed riding a horse as recently as 2020.

In the past year she has been seen using a walking stick, and in October she spent a night in a London hospital for unspecified tests.

The queen has a busy schedule over the next few months of her Platinum Jubilee year, and is scheduled to attend in-person public engagements in the coming weeks, including a diplomatic reception at Windsor on March 2 and the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey on March 14.

On March 29, she has a remembrance service at Westminster Abbey for her husband Prince Philip, who died in April 2021 at the age of 99.

Australia welcomes tourists — and flu

International tourists are scheduled to arrive at Sydney airport on Monday, almost two years after Australia closed its borders to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The first 56 plane loads of vaccinated travellers will come from the US, Japan and Canada — but not our biggest market China — in welcome news to hospitality and tourism operators.

But health experts say the influx of visitors could also bring back the flu for the first time in two years which could flare up this winter, with Australians likely to have lost a degree of immunity.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there were 1.2 million people around the world who were “visa-ed up” and could now come to Australia.

However China will be absent because Chinese travellers are not allowed to venture to Australia at the moment.

Tourists will be able to explore Australia once again. Photo: Getty

The reopening marks a significant milestone for Australia’s COVID-19 recovery plans, with past arrivals largely restricted to citizens, permanent residents and, more recently, international students.

“We are going from COVID cautious to COVID confident when it comes to travel,” Mr Morrison declared on Sunday.

Australian authorities have defended the prolonged border restrictions, which have been among the world’s strictest, for helping stem the spread of the virus, leading to low death rates by global standards.

“COVID has seen Australia retreat from the world. The national mood has become more insular,” said Tim Soutphommasane, a professor of sociology and political theory at Sydney University.

“To have Australia welcome international tourists again marks something of a re-engagement with the world.”

Tourism Australia is spending $40 million on a campaign to entice international tourists Down Under.

In early 2020, the government agency suspended a Kylie Minogue-led advertising campaign amid the devastation of the bushfires and the initial stages of the pandemic.

Peter Shelley, managing director of the Australian Tourism Export Council, says it will take time to rebuild the sector.

“We were the first industry to fully close and will be the last industry to fully reopen and most of our businesses don’t expect to see any significant income from the inbound market until well into next year,” he said.

“While businesses will be relieved, they also know the challenge lays ahead in rebuilding from the ground up.”

Around 9.5 million international visitors came to Australia in 2019 before border closures brought the travel industry to a standstill, Tourism Australia data shows.

Australia draws the majority of its visitors from China, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, the UK and US.

Australia will welcome more than 50 flights in the first 24 hours of the borders reopening. Photo: AAP

Meanwhile Victoria is opening its newly built $200 million quarantine hub on Monday for those international travellers who are not vaccinated.

Queensland also has its own purpose built 500-bed quarantine centre near Toowoomba, which is likely to house unvaccinated international arrivals.

In Australia’s latest tally on Sunday there were 21 deaths reported in NSW, alongside 5582 new COVID-19 infections.

In Victoria there were 4867 cases along with a further nine virus-related deaths, while Queensland reported 4265 cases and another two deaths and one fatality was recorded in the Northern Territory.

The ACT reported 560 new infections.

-with AAP

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