The federal government has announced it’s delayed the opening of Australia’s international borders for another two weeks after the country reports up to five cases of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 since Saturday night. Well shit, there goes my hot summer island holiday, huh?
Prior to tonight, border restrictions for international students and other eligible visa holders were set to ease on Wednesday. Now, we can expect things to open by December 15. The country was also planning to establish a travel bubble with Japan and South Korea this week but this has been delayed till December 15, too.
The decision was made by the National Security Committee and based on health advice by federal chief medical officer Paul Kelly.
In a statement via the ABC, a spokesperson for the committee 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”.
As of publishing, international borders in Australia are closed for anyone who isn’t a fully vaxxed Australian citizen, permanent resident, or either persons’ immediate family, as well as people from New Zealand and Singapore or other countries Australia has established a travel bubble with.
There are currently five confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the country. Two were confirmed in New South Wales and arrived in the country from South Africa on a Singapore Airlines flight on Sunday night. Fortunately, NSW Health says they’re both fully vaccinated.
Everyone on that flight is also considered a close contact and must get tested immediately and isolate for 14 days.
Another is in a government-run quarantine facility in Darwin in the Northern Territory.
The first reported case of Omicron in the country was on Saturday after someone tested positive on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha.
On that same day, the federal government announced it was closing its borders off from South Africa for a fortnight before they followed up hours later to reveal that anyone who enters NSW or Victoria internationally now needs to get tested and isolate for 72 hours after their arrival.
Last Friday, the World Health Organisation declared the variant one “of concern”. Here’s why that shouldn’t make you panic and why the Australian government’s response to it is unapologetically racist.