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Omicron Covid variant: Greg Hunt backflips as Australia shuts border to southern Africa | Australian politics

Australia has suspended flights from 9 southern African nations and closed its borders to any overseas nationals who’ve been to the area, amid concern in regards to the rising Covid-19 variant of concern, Omicron.

The announcement, made by the federal well being minister, Greg Hunt, on Saturday afternoon, adopted journey restrictions imposed by the US, United Kingdom and European Union.

The brand new measures had been mentioned in a sequence of conferences, together with between the prime minister, Scott Morrison, and the chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, early on Saturday morning. The day gone by, Hunt had stated Australia had no intention of closing its border to South Africa and surrounding nations.

The restrictions apply to 9 African nations: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, the Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique.

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Australians trying to return dwelling from that area will likely be allowed into the nation, however ordered into necessary lodge quarantine.

Anybody who’s already in Australia, who has visited one of many listed nations up to now 14 days, is ordered to quarantine and get examined instantly.

Authorities say fewer than 100 current arrivals to Australia could be topic to such orders. There are 20 folks from South Africa, who’ve arrived through the previous week, quarantining on the Howard Springs facility within the Northern Territory. A kind of circumstances is constructive, although the variant shouldn’t be but recognized.

Hunt stated there have been no recognized circumstances of Omicron in Australia, however that precautionary measures had been wanted given rising concern in regards to the variant.

Hunt stated the federal government had taken “sturdy, swift, decisive and instant actions”.

“They’re taken on the perfect medical recommendation,” he stated.

“We’ve taken [precautionary] motion up to now. We’ve taken early motion up to now. We’re doing that once more.

“The distinction is that we now have sturdy vaccines, we now have one of many highest ranges of protection on this planet, we now have some of the just lately vaccinated populations on this planet, and we now have sturdy public well being and social measures, and we even have, most importantly, a well-prepared hospital system.”

Hunt stated the measures might be shortly altered – scaled up or wound again – as the world discovered extra about Omicron.

“If the medical proof exhibits that additional actions are required, we is not going to hesitate to take them,” he stated.

Protesters move down Bourke Street in Melbourne, Australia, to protest against mandatory vaccination.
Protesters transfer down Bourke Road in Melbourne, Australia, to protest towards necessary vaccination. {Photograph}: Darrian Traynor/Getty Photographs

The World Well being Organisation and the EU have shortly labeled the variant as “of concern”. Kelly stated authorities nonetheless didn’t have “any clear indication” that it was extra extreme that different variants, or the way it affected individuals who had been vaccinated.

“They’re essential factors,” he stated. “It’s the rationale why we’re taking this precautionary method, which is proportionate to that threat, and putting in the measures that the minister has outlined in relation to that.”

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Earlier on Saturday, the Labor chief, Anthony Albanese, known as for the borders to be closed to South Africa and surrounds.

“We all know the affect that Delta had when it got here right here,” he stated. “And we are able to’t afford to be complacent.

“We must always shut the border with southern African nations, identical to our counterparts in superior economies within the northern hemisphere have executed.

“The well being authorities are nonetheless analyzing the element however what we must always have is an angle which mitigates threat.”

State well being authorities have already begun contacting worldwide arrivals in an try to shortly establish and isolate anybody who has been to southern Africa.

NSW Well being stated all travellers who had been within the area within the 14 days earlier than arriving in Australia ought to get examined and isolate till additional discover.

“The emergence of this new variant reinforces the vital significance of all totally vaccinated travellers who return from abroad complying with the NSW Well being pointers; there are necessities to be examined and restrictions on attending sure high-risk premises,” NSW Well being stated in a press release.

On Saturday, Victoria recorded 1,252 new Covid-19 circumstances and 5 deaths.

Within the third consecutive weekend of Victorian protests towards vaccine mandates, 1000’s gathered outdoors state parliament at noon earlier than transferring on to Bourke Road Mall.

Protesters waved Australian and Eureka flags as nicely as these of different nations together with Greece, Lebanon and Macedonia, and held indicators with slogans such as “concern God not Dan”, “finish segregation now” and “kill the invoice”, in reference to the pandemic laws earlier than parliament.

A number of bus and tram routes had been affected by the protest, with motorists urged to enable loads of further time if travelling into town.

A protest towards necessary vaccination was additionally held in Sydney’s Hyde Park.

In New South Wales there have been 235 new Covid circumstances on Saturday.

The NT recorded two new Covid circumstances, together with the person on a repatriation flight from South Africa. Queensland had one new case, in lodge quarantine.

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