The Federal Government has deferred tomorrow’s planned reopening of the international border for students and other eligible visa holders – moving it instead to December 15.
In a statement, the government says the pause will allow time to gather information about the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 and whether it poses a greater threat than Delta. It will also give a clearer picture of the strain's level of transmission, severity of illness and the vaccine's efficacy against it.
“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,” it said.
The government will also delay the “travel bubble” with Japan and the Republic of Korea from December 1 to December 15.
The pause means the Australian border is only now open for fully vaccinated citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family, as well as “fully vaccinated green lane travellers from New Zealand and Singapore and limited exemptions”.
If entering the country through New South Wales or Victoria, they will have to get tested and go into isolation for 72 hours. People coming to all other states have to quarantine for 14 days.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will meet the National Cabinet today to discuss the Omicron variant and Australia’s response. “Australians can be assured that we are in a strong position to deal with Covid and its emerging challenges,” he says.
“We have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with 92.3 per cent having had a first dose and 86.8 per cent of our eligible population now double vaccinated, and we have one of the only whole of population booster programs being delivered, with around 415,000 Australians having received their booster.”