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Australia to extend human biosecurity period by two months amid Omicron scare

Delhi on Friday reported 10,756 new coronavirus cases and 38 more deaths due to the virus in the last 24-hour cycle
COVID-19. Photo: Miguel Á. Padriñán/ Pixabay

Canberra, Dec 10 (MNN) The Australian government said on Friday that the human biosecurity emergency period under Biosecurity Act 2015 will be extended by two months.

These arrangements in place since March 18, 2020 to protect Australians during COVID-19 pandemic will now continue until February 17, 2022, Health and Aged Care Minister Greg Hunt said.

The extension given by the Governor-General followed specialist medical and epidemiological advice provided by Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer.

The Minister said that the continuation of these arrangement will allow the important measures currently in place to continue as it continues to reopen Australia and act decisively to respond to the emergence of the Omicron variant.

The extension means the four existing emergency requirement determinations will remain in force for the duration of the extension period, with the ability to be revoked at an earlier time, depending on medical advice.

These determinations include:

  • Mandatory pre-departure testing and mask wearing for international flights
  • Restrictions on international travel from high risk countries
  • Restrictions on outbound international travel for unvaccinated Australians
  • Restrictions on the entry of cruise vessels within Australian territory (this determination will be reviewed monthly).

Hunt said that these arrangements have been a significant contributing factor in Australia’s success in avoiding the catastrophic effects of COVID-19 seen in many other countries.

It has enabled Australia to respond quickly to moderate the number of inbound and outbound travellers, protect remote and indigenous communities from localised outbreaks, reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19 on flights and at international airports in Australia and further manage the number of cases in quarantine facilities.

The human biosecurity emergency period ensures the appropriate legislative powers are available to the Australian government as further information is gained and understood about Omicron, as well as to protect vulnerable communities in Australia.

As has been the case throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, these arrangements will be reviewed regularly to take into account the latest medical advice.

The Minister said that the government continues to work constructively with the cruise ship industry, with whom it remains actively engaged alongside state and territory governments to enable a phased resumption of cruising in Australia on the basis of medical advice.

As part of this work, the Government will continually review, on a monthly basis, whether the current restrictions on cruise ships can be safely lifted or amended.

The measures in place under the Biosecurity Act 2015 can be repealed or amended at any time prior to the end of the human biosecurity emergency period and it will be continuously reviewed as a priority.

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