Urgent genomic testing is underway in New South Wales to determine whether two overseas arrivals who tested positive to COVID-19 after landing in Sydney are carrying the new Omicron variant.
All flights to Australia from nine southern African countries – South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, the Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique – have been suspended for two weeks.
Under Federal Government health regulations, all travellers arriving in Australia from the above countries during the 14 day period before their arrival in NSW must enter hotel quarantine for 14 days, irrespective of their vaccination status.
Jane Halton, chair of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, told Today the border restrictions are a good short-term measure.
“A pause on people who are not citizens coming in from those countries is probably prudent.
“What we are trying to do is slow it down … we are going to be able to learn how we might best manage this variant.”
The new variant, labelled Omicron by the World Health Organisation on Saturday, has been detected in South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong, Israel, Belgium and the United Kingdom.
Here is how Australia’s states and territories are responding:
In addition to the Commonwealth measures, all overseas arrivals into New South Wales are now required to get tested and isolate for 72 hours.
All flight crew who have been overseas during the 14-day period before their arrival in NSW must travel directly to their place of residence or accommodation and isolate for 14 days or until their departure on another flight that leaves Australia, in line with the current rules for unvaccinated flight crew.
Anyone who has already arrived in NSW who has been in any of the nine African countries within the previous 14 days must immediately get tested and isolate for 14 days, and call NSW Health on 1800 943 553.
All unvaccinated travellers from any overseas country will continue to enter hotel quarantine.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said the “NSW Government will continue to put community safety first by taking these precautionary but important steps until more information becomes available”.
In addition to the Commonwealth measures, all overseas arrivals into Victoria are now required to get tested and isolate for 72 hours.
Under existing public health orders, before arrival in Victoria, travellers must have an international passenger travel permit. All overseas arrivals must also undergo a standard PCR test within 24 hours and between day five and day seven of entering Victoria.
All vaccinated Australian based aircrew who have been to one of the nine countries above must quarantine for 14 days at their place of residence or alternate accommodation until their next flight. All vaccinated Australian based aircrew arriving from another international country and have not been to one of the nine countries listed above must quarantine at home or their place of residence for 72 hours.
International aircrew will have to quarantine in Victoria’s hotel quarantine program for 72 hours or 14 days – depending on whether they have been in one of the nine countries or not. Testing requirements also apply.
Unvaccinated international arrivals must spend 14 days in hotel quarantine, as will unvaccinated aircrew or until their next flight.
Victoria’s Acting Chief Health Officer Deborah Freidman said authorities are working to better understand the new Omicron variant.
“We’ll will continue to work with the Commonwealth Government and state and territory colleagues to better understand the potential implications for this new variant and which actions are required to keep Australians protected.”
South Australia has brought into effect some of the strongest restrictions across the country.
All internationals travellers and people arriving from high risk locations from within Australia arriving into the state or international travellers transiting through another port directly to South Australia must now undertake 14 days quarantine.
Meanwhile those from low risk or moderate risk LGAs will need to show evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours before arrival.
SA Police say the provision allowing people to have a COVID-19 test once they arrive into the state and quarantine until they receive a negative test result has been removed.
Australian Capital Territory
The ACT government announced that any fully vaccinated overseas travellers arriving as of midnight from countries other than those six Southern African nations must quarantine until 11.59pm on Tuesday, November 30.
This is as opposed to the other states implementing 72 hours from arrival isolation requirements.
All unvaccinated travellers from any overseas country will continue to enter hotel quarantine for 14 days in both states and the ACT.
WA Premier Mark McGowan announced a tightening of the border with South Australia.
Arrivals from South Australia will be required to undergo 14 days of self-isolation.
The change came into effect at 1.15pm yesterday.
Eight COVID-19 cases have been recorded in SA since it opened its borders on November 23, although no evidence of community spread of the virus has been established.
Travellers from NT entering WA remain under the same restrictions.
Authorities have urged people to remain calm about the Omicron variant of COVID-19, saying the state’s current restrictions are adequate to protect the population.
Deputy Chief Health Officer Peter Aitken said yesterday all international arrivals are already going into hotel quarantine and domestic arrivals from states with open international borders are going into home quarantine.
A person has tested positive to COVID-19 in the Northern Territory yesterday after arriving from South Africa.
Genomic sequencing started to determine whether it is the Omicron variant.
“We don’t have the genomic sequencing of that case yet but that would be undertaken in the coming days,” Northern Territory Health Minister Natasha Fyles said, adding the person is in Howard Springs quarantine facility and poses a “low risk” to the community.