Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Source: Reuters
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  • Australia delays its border opening following a rise in Omicron cases
  • On Monday, Prime Minster Scott Morrison delayed the reopening by two weeks, with the new date December 15
  • The new coronavirus variant has been labelled “a variant of concern” by the World Health Organisation and could be potentially more dangerous than the previous variants
  • Australia’s leaders will meet on Tuesday to discuss the country’s response to Omicron

Australia has delayed its border opening following a rise in Omicron cases.

On Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Australians to “remain calm” as the country reviewed its plans to reopen the borders to skilled migrants and students from December 1.

However, not long after Mr Morrison delayed the reopening by two weeks, with the new date December 15.

“The temporary pause will ensure Australia can gather the information we need to better understand the Omicron variant, including the efficacy of the vaccine, the range of illness, including if it may generate more mild symptoms, and the level of transmission,” the Prime Minister said in a statement.

“Australia’s border is already closed to travellers except fully vaccinated Australian citizens, permanent residents and immediate family, as well as fully vaccinated green lane travellers from New Zealand and Singapore and limited exemptions.”

The new coronavirus variant has been labelled “a variant of concern” by the World Health Organisation and could be potentially more dangerous than the previous variants such as Delta. Importantly, health authorities do not know yet if it will cause more or less severe COVID-19 compared to other strains.

According to Australian authorities, a foreign tourist who was most likely infected with the Omicron variety spent time in the community on Tuesday, while officials raced to locate the person’s close connections and sites visited.

According to authorities, the fully vaccinated person attended a large retail mall in Sydney while presumably contagious.

If verified, the total number of patients in Australia infected with the new variant will grow to six. All of the remaining patients have been quarantined and are either asymptomatic or have very weak symptoms.

Australia’s leaders will meet on Tuesday to discuss the country’s response to Omicron. The national cabinet meeting comes after the confirmation of five new cases of the variant in new arrivals to Australia.

Notably, flights and non-citizens from nine affected countries in southern Africa have been banned from entering Australia.

“Australia has a proven record of dealing with COVID, we have one of the lowest fatality rates, highest vaccination rates and strongest economies in the world,” Mr Morrison said.

“We will continue to take sensible and responsive evidence based action, led by medical experts. This will ensure we can open safely, and stay safely open as we learn to live with the virus.”

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