Omicron puts Australia's reopening plans in doubt

Photo: REUTERS/Loren Elliott

Australia's plans to reopen borders to skilled migrants and students will be reviewed beginning in December, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday, after the country reported its first instances of the Omicron coronavirus type.

Two persons arriving in Sydney from southern Africa tested positive for the newly found variety on Sunday, as officials imposed a 14-day quarantine on citizens returning from nine African nations.

Morrison said it was "a little too early" to impose the two-week obligatory hotel isolation for foreign visitors, advising people to be calm because data on the severity, transmissibility and vaccination resistance of the Omicron strain had not yet been completely confirmed.

"So we just take this one step at a time, get the best information, make calm, sensible decisions," Morrison told Nine News.

The World Health Organization has designated Omicron as a "variant of concern," implying that it is possibly more infectious than earlier versions. However, scientists are unsure if it will induce more or less severe COVID-19 than previous variants.

Morrison stated that the national security committee will meet later on Monday to review the border reopening relaxations that are set to take effect on Wednesday. He stated that a meeting of all state and territory leaders will take place by Tuesday.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt stated that he has requested that the country's immunization advisory panel reassess the time for COVID-19 booster doses. Approximately 87 percent of Australia's population over the age of 16 has been completely vaccinated, which is higher than rates found in the United States, the United Kingdom, and many Western European nations.

Three persons who arrived in New South Wales on Sunday tested positive for COVID-19, according to health officials, and genetic sequencing is being performed to determine if they were infected with the Omicron strain.

The new variation appeared after Sydney and Melbourne, Australia's main cities, began to allow vaccinated individuals access from outside without quarantine on November 1 after closing their borders for more than 18 months.

Both cities have strengthened their travel policies, requiring all overseas visitors to stay in quarantine for 72 hours. Due to differing vaccination rates, several nations have not yet opened their borders to international visitors.

Since the start of the epidemic, Australia has registered around 209,000 coronavirus illnesses and 1,997 deaths.

Publish : 2021-11-29 09:43:00

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