Australia reviewing reopening plans after reporting first omicron cases
Australia will review its reopening plans for skilled migrants and students after the country detected its first two cases of the COVID-19 omicron variant.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday said the national security committee will convene later in the day to examine the changes to the border restrictions that are set to take effect on Wednesday, according to Reuters.
On Tuesday, leaders from all states and territories will come together for a meeting, Reuters reported.
Morrison announced last week that starting Dec. 1 vaccinated students and skilled workers would be allowed to enter the country, according to Al Jazeera.
That change, however, is now in jeopardy after the country detected two cases of the new omicron variant, which may be more contagious than previous strains.
Morrison said it is “a bit too early” to put the required two-week hotel quarantine for foreign passengers back into place, telling citizens to remain calm as health officials continue to gather more information on the new strain’s severity, transmissibility and vaccine resistance, according to Reuters.
“So we just take this one step at a time, get the best information, make calm, sensible decisions,” Morrison told Nine News, according to Reuters.
Morrison’s announcement that Australia is reviewing its reopening plans comes after health officials in New South Wales announced that two travelers who arrived in the country from South Africa had tested positive for the omicron variant.
The strain was first detected in South Africa and has since spread to neighboring African countries and a handful of other nations, including Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.
The World Health Organization labeled the strain a variant of concern at an emergency meeting on Friday.
In response, the U.S. on Monday will restrict travel from passengers arriving from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.
Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday said the strain will “inevitably” be detected in the U.S.
Roughly 87 percent of Australia’s population above the age of 16 is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Reuters.
National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins said it will take “weeks” to understand if the existing vaccines protect against the new variant.
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