Changes to national border restrictions announced with new Omicron COVID-19 variant

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt and Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly addressed the Australian public today with an update regarding the new Omicron COVID-19 variant.

Mr Hunt said that Australia has stopped flights from 9 countries in Southern Africa. There is also a temporary ban on non-Australian citizens entering Australia who have been in the those 9 countries.

The countries are South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique.

There is now a requirement for Australians who have been in those countries to have 14 days quarantine and these rules apply to those coming under travel bubbles.

Mr Hunt said it is required that returned Australians who have been in Australia prior to the commencement of these rules undertake quarantine from 14 days after their departure from Southern African areas.

He said they have worked with the states and territories who have put in place public health orders to cover all arrivals with home isolation for a 72 hour period if they are coming into Australia.

Two cases of the Omicron variant have been recorded in NSW over the weekend. Meanwhile, the Northern Territory has recorded its first case of the Omicron variant today.

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison is meeting the national security committee today to review Australia’s response to the Omicron variant. It was stated that additional steps will be taken if deemed required.

Mr Hunt also said he has asked Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation’s (ATAGI) to review the time frame around the booster shot administration.

Currently, it is recommended to receive the booster shot six months after a person has received their second COVID-19 vaccination dose. Mr Hunt said Australian vaccine supplied are sufficient if it is recommended to receive the booster shot in a shorter time frame.

Mr Hunt states that there is currently no evidence to suggest that the vaccines are any less effective against the Omicron variant.

At the time of this announcement today, Australia’s population of those aged 16 and over are at 86.7% fully vaccinated, with the nation ranking as one of the highest vaccinated countries in the world.

The Prime Minister is also meeting with the national cabinet to ensure there are common actions with all states and jurisdictions.

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