Canberra, Nov 27 (MNN) With ‘Omicron’ variant of novel coronavirus declared a variant of concern by the WHO, the Australian government said on Saturday that it will put in place additional border security measures to protect citizens, including arrival curbs and restrictions on certain travellers and suspension of flights from nine countries.
The step has been taken on the basis of medical advice provided by Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly.
These actions are taken on the basis of prevention and are considered proportionate to the risk and consistent with actions being considered by other countries, Health Minister Greg Hunt and Professor Kelly said.
“The actions taken by the Australian government to date are precautionary and will remain so until more is known about the severity and transmissibility of the new variant.”
Effective immediately, anyone who is not a citizen or permanent resident of Australia, or their immediate family including parents of citizens, and who have been in African countries where the Omicron variant has been detected and spread – within the past 14 days – will not be able to enter Australia.
The countries are South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique.
Australian citizens and permanent residents, immediate family members including parents, arriving from these countries, will need to go into immediate supervised quarantine for 14 days subject to jurisdictional arrangements.
They said that anyone who has already arrived in Australia and who has been in any of the nine countries within the past 14 days must immediately isolate themselves and get tested for COVID-19 and follow jurisdictional quarantine requirements, which include quarantine for 14 days from the time of departure from southern Africa.
These restrictions also apply to people, for instance international students and skilled migrants, arriving from the safe travel zones Australia established with New Zealand, Singapore, Japan and Republic of Korea, who have been in any of the nine countries within the past 14 days.
The Australian government will suspend all flights from the nine southern African countries for 14 days as a matter of precaution.
The World Health Organisation has declared B.1.1.529 strain of the virus, now known as Omicron strain, to be a variant of concern. It was first detected in southern African countries.
The Omicron variant has a high number of mutations within its spike protein, which is particularly concerning.
There are currently no known cases of the Omicron variant in Australia.