Australia Extends COVID-19 Control Measures

Australian Associated Press is an Australian news agency.
December 10, 2021 Updated: December 10, 2021

Australia has again extended COVID-19 biosecurity measures governing controls around who can enter and leave the country.

The measures under the Biosecurity Act, in place since March 2020, will extend until Feb. 17.

They allow the continuation of mandatory COVID-19 testing for people wanting to fly into Australia as well as protective mask-wearing on international flights.

The rules also cover restrictions on international arrivals from high-risk countries, unvaccinated Australians wanting to go overseas, and controls on cruise ships.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison aims to allow international students and other visa holders back into Australia this year.

A two-week delay to the reopening is due to end on Dec. 15, but no final decision has yet been made.

“We’re just taking some final bits of information,” Morrison told 2GB radio following a national cabinet meeting with state and territory leaders on Friday.

He urged premiers and chief ministers not to shut their borders as Omicron cases continued to rise.

Morrison cited as positive signs South Australia’s decision to tighten border controls for some interstate arrivals instead of shutting them out altogether, and Queensland’s move to reopen to people from hotspot areas on Monday.

“The severity of this (Omicron) virus is so far not presenting to be worse than what happened with Delta,” the prime minister said.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly advised national cabinet it was still early days for Australia’s understanding of the Omicron variant.

Leaders agreed to continue considering international border settings consistent with a suppression strategy and as more evidence emerged about Omicron’s severity, transmissibility and the efficacy of vaccines against it.

Infections are on the rise in New South Wales. The state reported 516 new cases on Friday, its highest daily caseload in two months.

Victoria recorded 1,206 daily infections and two more deaths.

The ACT detected six additional cases and the Northern Territory four, while there were six locally acquired cases in Queensland.

Australia’s 16-plus full vaccination rate sits at 88.9 percent.

More than two million children aged between five and 11 will be eligible for Pfizer shots from Jan. 10.

Australia’s immunisation advisory body signed off on giving younger children a Pfizer dose one-third of the usual strength.

Jabs will be spaced eight weeks apart for under-12s and bookings will open in late December.

By Georgie Moore

Australian Associated Press is an Australian news agency.