Just days after announcing the return of skilled workers and international students to Australia, the government has slammed on the brakes until it has a better handle on the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
In a statement issued shortly after 8.30pm Monday night, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “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 cohort which was to be allowed into the country from tomorrow, 1 December, will have to delay travel plans for two weeks.
Just eight days ago, skilled workers and international students were told they could return to Australia but they must now wait until 15 December.
The late notice means some may already be in transit to Australia.
Australian Border Force has the discretion to allow such travellers in, but they will now be subject to isolation or quarantine orders, as imposed by the various states.
An emergency meeting of National Cabinet will be held today to further discuss Australia’s response to Omicron.
Medical advice provided by the Chief Medical Officer of Australia, Professor Paul Kelly, was behind the decision to halt the return.
The ever-changing nature of COVID-19 and its emerging variants continues to play havoc with travel arrangements around the world.
The Australian government has now declared anyone who has been in African countries in the past 14 days – where Omicron has been detected – cannot enter Australia.
These countries are Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Seychelles, which was on the list, has now been removed.
Any recent arrivals into Australia from these eight countries of concern must now immediately quarantine for 14 days and get tested for COVID-19.
New South Wales and Victoria have already announced that any visitors to Australia must now get tested and self-isolate for 72 hours.
In other states, 14 days of mandatory managed quarantine is required.