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PM Scott Morrison pauses the border opening amid Omicron threat.

Australia News: 30th November 2021

PM Scott Morrison pause border opening over Omicron threat

The reopening of Australia’s international borders will be ­delayed by two weeks to December 15, until health authorities are confident that the Omicron variant of Covid-19 poses no greater health risk than the current strains.

Scott Morrison’s decision to impose a pause on travel to Australia for more than 200,000 visa holders – which was due to restart on Wednesday – was made after an assessment of updated health advice to a meeting of the national security committee of cabinet on Monday night.

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.

At this stage, the easing of border restrictions will be delayed until December 15.

The two-week pause will also be applied to the proposed travel bubble for South Korea and Japan. The existing travel bubble arrangements for New Zealand and Singapore will remain unchanged.

Australians returning from non-risk countries will not be affected by this decision but will remain bound by NSW and Victorian rules requiring self-isolation for 72 hours on arrival.

The decision was made following advice from chief medical officer Paul Kelly to the NSC that more time was needed to evaluate the threat of the new variant ­despite initial assessments that it might be a milder disease than the dominant Delta strain that forced NSW and Victoria into prolonged lockdowns this year.

The plan for a pause on the reopening will be taken to an emergency meeting of the national cabinet on Tuesday afternoon, ­following at least five confirmed cases of the Omicron variant.

“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 Prime Minister – who last week announced more than 200,000 visa holders from across the globe and tourists from Japan and Korea would be allowed back into the country from Wednesday – said

Australia’s high vaccine take-up was the first line of ­defence against new variants.
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