Australia delays border easing, 5th Omicron case says
Canberra – Australian authorities announced on Monday that they will delay plans to ease restrictions at the border for at least two weeks, as the country reported its fifth omicron COVID-19 case.
New South Wales state authorities said on Sunday that two travelers from South Africa to Sydney had become Australia’s first case of the new type. Both were fully vaccinated and had no symptoms and were in quarantine in Sydney.
On Monday, the state government said two more cases were confirmed in Sydney after they arrived in Australia’s most populous state on a flight from South Africa on Sunday.
A South African man in his 30s who traveled from Johannesburg to the northern Australian city of Darwin last Thursday also tested positive for the omicron variant, officials said.
The Australian government decided later on Monday to delay plans to ease restrictions at the border from Wednesday until December 15.
“Australia’s pause will ensure that it gathers the information we need to better understand the omicron variant, including the efficacy of the vaccine, the scope of the disease, including whether it can generate more mild symptoms, and the level of transmission,” the government statement said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week announced plans to allow immunized students, skilled workers and holiday travelers to land at Sydney and Melbourne airports without being quarantined.
Nationals of Japan and South Korea who were vaccinated with certain Australian visas could also be allowed to enter without quarantine, as well as people on humanitarian visas, under plans for the now-deferred border.
On Monday, Morrison urged a calm response to the drug Omicron, which the World Health Organization has classified as a different type of concern.
“The case numbers in and of themselves are not the issue. It comes down to whether people get worse or it puts a strain on your hospital system,” Morrison said.
New South Wales and Victoria, Australia’s second most populous state, as well as the national capital Canberra, have introduced a blanket 72-hour quarantine requirement for all international arrivals.
The government announced on Saturday that due to concerns about omicron, non-Australian citizens and permanent residents who have visited South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique in the past 14 days will not be able to enter Australia.
Australians will be allowed entry but must quarantine for 14 days.
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