Australia’s International border reopening on hold due to Omicron threat

Australia’s International border reopening on hold due to Omicron threat

Concerns about the threat from the new coronavirus strain , Omicron have prompted the federal government to defer the planned reopening of the international border to December 15. Prime Minister Scott Morrison discussed the pause at a national security committee of federal cabinet on Monday night as health experts say it is too soon to know if Omicron is more severe than Delta.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement on Monday night after a meeting of cabinet’s national security committee was briefed on the latest information about Omicron.

About 200,000 skilled migrants and students were expected to start arriving from 1st December, but top federal ministers reviewed the plan ahead of a national cabinet meeting on Tuesday and decided to delay the reopening.

“On the basis of medical advice provided by the Chief Medical Officer of Australia, Professor Paul Kelly, the National Security Committee has taken the necessary and temporary decision to pause the next step to safely reopen Australia to international skilled and student cohorts, as well as humanitarian, working holiday maker and provisional family visa holders from 1 December until 15 December,’’ a spokesman said.

“The temporary pause will ensure Australia can gather the information we need to better understand the Omicron variant, including the efficacy of the vaccine, the range of illness, including if it may generate more mild symptoms, and the level of transmission.”

Over the weekend Australia introduced temporary bans on travel to Australia from several African countries including South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Malawi and Mozambique.

Anyone who is not a citizen or permanent resident of Australia, or their immediate family including parents of citizens, and who have been in African countries where the Omicron variant has been detected and spread within the past 14 days, will not be able to enter Australia.

Under state public health orders, New South Wales and Victoria have already initiated testing and 72-hour isolation requirements for all arrivals including  Australian citizens, permanent residents and immediate family members entering the country. In other states, 14 days of managed quarantine are required, and traveller cap arrangements are in place.