Australia’s reopening plans in doubt after Omicron cases identified

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A flight crew walks through the terminal at Sydney Airport, Monday, November 29, 2021. Authorities in Australia said on Sunday, 28 November 2021, that two travelers who arrived in Sydney from Africa have become the first people in the country to have tested positive for it. The new form of the coronavirus, Omicron.Mark Baker / The Associated Press

Australia will review its plans to reopen borders to skilled migrants and students from 1 December, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday, after the country reported its first cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

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Two people who arrived in Sydney from southern Africa tested positive for the newly identified variant on Sunday as authorities ordered a 14-day quarantine for citizens returning from nine African countries.

Morrison said “it’s a little early” to reinstate the two-week mandatory hotel quarantine for foreign travelers, urging people to remain calm because data has yet to fully assess the severity, transmittance and vaccine resistance of the Omicron strain. was not determined.

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“So we just take one step at a time, get the best information, make calm, sensible decisions,” Morrison told Nine News.

Omicron, dubbed “a type of anxiety” by the World Health Organization, is potentially more contagious than previous forms. But experts do not yet know whether it will cause more or less severe COVID-19 than other strains.

Morrison said the National Security Committee would meet on Monday to assess exemptions for reopening the border from Wednesday. He said that by Tuesday there will be a meeting of leaders of all the states and regions.

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Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said he has asked the country’s vaccination advisory group to review the deadline for COVID-19 booster shots. About 87% of the Australian population over the age of 16 have been fully vaccinated, above rates seen in the United States, Britain and several countries in Western Europe.

Health officials in New South Wales said three people who arrived on Sunday from southern Africa had tested positive for COVID-19 and were undergoing genomic sequencing to check whether they were infected with the Omicron strain.

The new version has emerged as Sydney and Melbourne, Australia’s biggest cities, began allowing vaccinated citizens from overseas without quarantine from 1 November, who closed their borders for more than 18 months. Was.

Both the cities have tightened their travel rules and ordered all international travelers to be quarantined for 72 hours. Other states have yet to open their borders to foreign travelers because of differing vaccination rates.

Australia has recorded nearly 209,000 coronavirus cases and 1,997 deaths since the pandemic began.

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