SYDNEY - Two years ago, on Tuesday (Jan 25) the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Australia. The disease would trigger some of the world's toughest coronavirus controls.
The first confirmed case of the new coronavirus in Australia was a man in his 50s who had spent time in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the infectious disease was first detected.
Personnel take samples for COVID-19 tests at a drive-thru testing facility set up in Bondi Beach, in Sydney, Australia, Jan. 8, 2022.
Two years later, Australia has recorded 1.6 million infections and more than 3,000 people have died, according to official government data. Health officials report that the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals in New South Wales - the nation's most populous state - is at almost 3,000, the highest level since the pandemic began.
New South Wales premier Dominic Perrottet has paid tribute Tuesday in Sydney to the state's medical staff.
"Can I begin by thanking our health workers right across our state who are doing an inspirational and amazing job during these challenging times as they have been over the last two years in keeping people safe in our health system?" he said.
However, experts are optimistic the current omicron wave may have peaked in Australia. 93% of eligible Australians have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
FILE - People queue to receive a vaccination at the NSW Vaccine Centre at Homebush Olympic Park in Sydney, Australia, July 1, 2021.
New South Wales Chief Health Officer Dr. Kerry Chant has stressed the importance of receiving a booster shot.
"For those with underlying health conditions, I just want to acknowledge that it has been a difficult time throughout the pandemic and a difficult time recently. But can I re-emphasize that booster doses will give you significant additional protection against severe disease," said Chant.
New South Wales has Tuesday extended its indoor mask mandates and capacity limits for cafes and restaurants for at least another month.
The pandemic prompted Australia to bring in some of the world's toughest disease-control measures, including international border closures, lockdowns and vaccine mandates for key workers.
Many foreign travelers remain barred from entering the country.
Borders between Australia's six states and two main territories have also been closed during the pandemic.
Western Australia's plans to reopen its internal borders on February 5 have been postponed indefinitely because of the omicron wave sweeping the rest of the country.