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Scott Morrison has raised hopes that a pause to the reopening of international borders could end earlier than expected as he urged the states not to be “spooked” into lockdowns.
The Prime Minister has told business leaders it’s possible the delay to the December 1 reopening of international borders as a result of the new variant Omicron could be resolved in under a fortnight.
The Morrison Government announced this week the planned December 1 reopening for vaccinated Australians returning from overseas without a travel exemption would be delayed.
Until now, Australians returning home could travel only if they sought a travel exemption.
A valid passport was no guarantee of being able to fly home. It’s a policy that left thousands stranded overseas.
“We’ve just pushed it back from the first of December until the 15th of December,” the Prime Minister said.
“It’s a temporary pause, and this is just simply to ensure we can gather information to better understand the Omicron variant, including the efficacy of vaccines and the range of illness which we can expect and the level of transmission.”
But the Prime Minister has told business leaders in a virtual address to the Australian Industry Group that he is hopeful that the reopening plan could be back on track swiftly.
“Now, my expectation is that in a fortnight’s time, perhaps sooner, but I would think in a fortnight’s time, we’ll be able to press on,” the Prime Minister said.
“But there is very much a no regrets policy, and ensuring we just move carefully so we, the whole point here is to ensure that we can remain safely open, and we don’t want to prejudice anything that might compromise that objective.
“The goal here is not no cases and low cases, the goal here is ensuring that our hospital system is able to cope with the pressure.”
Overnight, the Prime Minister emerged from a meeting of national cabinet where he urged state governments not to resort to lockdowns again now that the nation was close to fully vaccinated.
“We’re not going back to lockdowns, none of us want that,” he said.
“What we did last night was protecting against that by having a sensible pause.”
“We need to make calm decisions, not get spooked by this.”
Vaccinated international arrivals will need to quarantine for 72 hours after they arrive in Australia in NSW, Victoria and the ACT.
However, people who have been in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini or Malawi will be required to enter hotel quarantine for 14 days.
“We do know it’s transmissible. We don’t know still about the vaccine effectiveness. We don’t know about severity,” chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly said.
“This is a temporary pause so we can get that information that we need.”
- by Samantha Maiden, news.com.au