Australia on Monday suspended its plan to reopen borders to students and skilled workers, citing uncertainties that still surround the dangerousness and transmissibility of the Omicron variant.
After an emergency meeting, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the long-awaited reopening will not take place on December 1 as planned and will be postponed for at least two weeks.
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The island-mainland's borders have been closed to most non-nationals for more than 20 months, resulting in a labor shortage and straining the vital tourism sector. Mr Morrison called the postponement "
necessary and temporary
", based on medical recommendations. Australia has detected five cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant in passengers from southern Africa.
The temporary suspension will allow Australia to gather the information we need to better understand this Omicron variant
,” he said.
Scott Morrison cited new concerns about "
the effectiveness of the vaccine, the severity of the disease, including whether it can cause milder symptoms, and its rate of transmission
Australia had allowed the return of foreigners from December 1
Last week, Canberra announced that international students, skilled workers and working holiday visa holders will be able to travel to Australia again from December 1.
The government lifted restrictions on overseas travel for Australians in October.
But he had categorically refused to ease restrictions for non-Australians, a move that has stranded around 1.4 million qualified visa holders in Australia, with no possibility of return if they decide to leave the country.
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On March 20, 2020, the island implemented one of the strictest border closures in the world to protect itself from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tens of thousands of Australians living abroad were unable to return to their homeland for 19 months.
Thefts were rare and nationals allowed to return had to undergo an expensive 14-day quarantine at the hotel.