Australia Halts Border Reopening As Omicron Cases Rise, PM Calls It A 'Necessary Decision'

Australia Halts Border Reopening As Omicron Cases Rise, PM Calls It A 'Necessary Decision'
© Analiza Pathak | India.com News Desk Australia Halts Border Reopening As Omicron Cases Rise, PM Calls It A ‘Necessary Decision’ (AP)

Canberra: Australia on Monday halted plans to reopen its international borders to skilled workers and students, citing concerns over the impact of the Covid-19 Omicron variant. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said reopening will not take place on December 1 as planned, calling the delay “a necessary and temporary decision,” news agency AFP reported. Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison had announced that starting December 1, vaccinated students, skilled workers and travelers on working vacations will be allowed to land at Sydney and Melbourne airports without quarantining. Vaccinated citizens of Japan and South Korea with certain Australian visas would also be allowed in without quarantining, as well as people on humanitarian visas, the government said last week.

On Monday, the Australian authorities announced a third case of the omicron COVID-19 variant. A South African man in his 30s who flew from Johannesburg to the northern Australian city of Darwin last Thursday tested positive for the new variant at Australia’s most secure quarantine facility at Howard Springs, Northern Territory Health Minister Natasha Fyles said.

New South Wales state authorities reported on Sunday that two travelers from South Africa to Sydney had become Australia’s first omicron cases. Both were fully vaccinated, showed no symptoms and were in quarantine in Sydney.

New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said Monday there could be a third omicron case in Australia’s most populous state.

In the 24 hours since Sunday, 141 passengers on five flights arrived from the nine countries affected by the omicron variant, officials said. All the travelers were in quarantine.

PM Morrison on Monday urged a calm response to Omicron, which the World Health Organization has designated a variant of concern.

“There’s no evidence to suggest that this leads to any more severe disease. If anything, it’s suggesting a lesser form of disease, particularly for those who are vaccinated,” Morrison told Nine Network television.

“Case numbers of themselves are not the issue. It’s about whether people are getting a worse illness or it’s going to put stress on your hospital system,” Morrison said.

New South Wales and Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous state, as well as the national capital Canberra have introduced a blanket 72-hour quarantine requirement for all international arrivals.

Hunt announced on Saturday that because of the concerns about omicron, non-Australian citizens and permanent residents who have been to South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, the Seychelles, Malawi, and Mozambique within the past 14 days will not be able to enter Australia.

Australians will be allowed in but must quarantine for 14 days.

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