Australia has announced it will delay the planned reopening of its borders to international travellers, set for 1 December, by at least two weeks.
The decision was taken by the government after the country identified its first cases of the omicron variant of coronavirus, which is causing nations around the world to tighten entry restrictions.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had previously announced that the country would open up to foreign visitors with eligible visas – including refugees, students and those on the popular working holidaymakers visa – from 1 December.
Scott Morrison listed them as: “Eligible visa holders, including skilled and student cohorts, as well as humanitarian, temporary, working holidaymaker and provisional family visa holders.”
However, after an emergency meeting between Mr Morrison and his national security committee, the decision was taken to postpone the lifting of the travel ban, based on advice from the chief health officer.
“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,” Mr Morrison said in a statement.
It is the latest country to take measures in response to the omicron variant, which was first sequenced in South Africa.
It is classed as a “variant of concern” due to fears that it could prove more transmissible than the delta variant and could evade the protection offered by current vaccines.
Israel and Japan have closed their borders, while Morocco has banned all inbound flights; the UK has reimposed the requirement for all arrivals to have a day two PCR test, with a new stipulation that travellers must self-isolate until they receive a negative result.
Ten African destinations have also been added to the UK’s travel red list.
After several cases of omicron were detected in England, Switzerland imposed a 10-day quarantine on all UK arrivals. Meanwhile, Spain has said only fully vaccinated Brits will be permitted into the country.
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