The federal government pauses international arrivals for students and visa holders while awaiting information on Omicron COVID

The federal government has postponed Wednesday’s planned easing of border restrictions for international students and other eligible visa holders until Dec. 15.

The government says the temporary halt will allow it to gather more information about the new Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The National Security Committee in the Cabinet made the decision today following medical advice from Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly.

The government says the temporary halt will allow it to gather more intelligence on the Omicron variant and whether it poses a greater threat than Delta.

The border is still open to Australians

Australia was to reopen to international students, skilled migrants as well as humanitarian, working holidaymakers and provisional family visa holders from 1 December.

However, the National Security Committee decided on Monday night to put that step on hold.

“The temporary pause will ensure that Australia can gather the information we need to better understand the Omicron variant, including the effectiveness of the vaccine, the range of diseases, including if it can generate milder symptoms, and the level of transmission,” he said. statement said.

Australia’s international border is closed to travelers with the exception of fully vaccinated Australian nationals, residents and their immediate family, as well as fully vaccinated “greenway” travelers from New Zealand and Singapore and limited exemptions.

The government has also postponed the reopening of travel with Japan and the Republic of Korea until December 15.

“Australians can be confident that we are in a strong position to deal with COVID and its new challenges,” the Prime Minister said.

“Australia has a proven track record in handling COVID, we have one of the lowest mortality rates, highest vaccination rates and strongest economies in the world.

The National Cabinet will meet tomorrow afternoon to consider its response to the new strain, which has been described as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization.

Variant of concern

Omicron was first reported to the WHO by South Africa earlier this month, and scientists are in the process of understanding whether the new strain poses a greater threat than Delta.

“Omicron has an unprecedented number of peak mutations, some of which are concerned about their potential impact on the orbit of the pandemic,” the WHO said.

To date, no deaths have been reported with Omicron, although further research was needed to assess Omicron’s potential to escape protection against immunity induced by vaccines and previous infections, it said.

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What do we know about the Omicron variant?

ATAGI reviews booster shots

Earlier Monday, Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt called for calm and insisted Australia was “well placed” to deal with a new variant which Australia’s expert vaccination panel, ATAGI, confirmed it would review the timeframe for COVID-19 booster shots.

“We will, as always, allow them (ATAGI) to act independently and continue to follow their advice,” said Mr. Hunt.

“But we are prepared with supplies. We are already one of the earliest nations in the world, after Israel, which has a booster program for the whole nation.

“If they recommend changes, we will follow those changes.”

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Greg Hunt has commissioned a review of the recommended timing for COVID-19 vaccine boosters.

Restrictions for South African nations

On Saturday, the Commonwealth banned non-nationals from nine countries in the southern African continent from entering Australia.

On the advice of Professor Kelly, the government has removed the Seychelles from the list of countries of concern.

Non-nationals traveling from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Malawi and Mozambique are not allowed to enter Australia.

New South Wales and Victoria require all Australians to return from abroad to isolate themselves for 72 hours, while other states have imposed 14 days of administered quarantine on international arrivals in response to the new variant.

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What COVID-19 travel insurance does not cover you for(Emilia Terzon)

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