The Australian government last delayed its plans to reopen the country's borders for international students and skilled workers and laid out new travel guidelines, as the spread of Omicron variant creates a new wave of fear.
However, when asked about going back into lockdown, the Morrison government refused. Australia will continue its plan for Christmas reopening and refrain from imposing harsh restrictions. While the health authorities gather more information about the new strain, the country needs to continue work as normal with more caution.
Australia’s economy has already suffered a massive hit in its attempt to contain a raging outbreak of the delta variant of coronavirus. As per a Bloomberg report, the gross domestic product is likely to fall 2.7% in the June-to-September period from the prior quarter.
Another lockdown would only bring more trouble for businesses and the job market.
"We're not going back to lockdowns, none of us want that," said Morrison.
To control the spread the government has already started taking steps, for instance, pausing the plan to open borders.
If assessments showed the new strain to be milder, the government could consider bringing forward the date to reopen borders again.
A temporary pause in relaxing border restrictions
As per the medical advice provided by the Chief Medical Officer of Australia, Professor Paul Kelly, the Australian Government will implement additional border security measures as a precaution to protect Australians from the new Omicron variant of concern.
According to the new guidelines, shared by the government:
- Effective immediately, anyone who is not a citizen or permanent resident of Australia, or their immediate family including parents of citizens, and who have been in African countries where the Omicron variant has been detected and spread – within the past 14 days – will not be able to enter Australia.
- The countries are: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique.
- Australian citizens and permanent residents, immediate family members including parents arriving from these countries will need to go into immediate supervised quarantine for 14 days subject to jurisdictional arrangements.
- Anyone who has already arrived in Australia and who has been in any of the nine countries within the past 14 days must immediately isolate themselves and get tested for COVID-19 and follow jurisdictional quarantine requirements which will include quarantine for 14 days from the time of departure from southern Africa.
- These restrictions also apply to people, for instance, international students and skilled migrants, arriving from the safe travel zones we have established with New Zealand, Singapore, Japan and Republic of Korea, who have been in any of the nine countries within the past 14 days.
- The Government will suspend all flights from the nine southern African countries for a period of 14 days as a matter of precaution.
The plan to safely reopen Australia to international skilled and student cohorts, as well as humanitarian, working holiday maker and provisional family visa holders has temporarily been moved from 1 December to 15 December.
"All of this is done on the presumption that we will recommence from 15 December, but medical advice will guide our decision-making throughout,” said Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.
Furthermore, Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has shared that the five people who had tested positive to the Omicron variant in Australia were experiencing "mild or, in fact, no disease".
While the government waits for the health officials to do more research on the new variant and share their advice, Morrison recommends everyone to stay calm and not be spooked by the new variant Omicron and the uncertainty it has brought along.
Image Credits: The Australian