Australia bans travel from nine countries over new Covid variant ‘Omicron’

Australia has taken precautionary action over the new variant of Covid-19 that’s emerged in South Africa.

Following the UK, US and parts of Europe, all non-residents are banned from travelling here if they’ve been to South Africa or the eight surrounding countries within the last 14 days.

Those countries include South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Losoto, Eswatini, The Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique


The federal government is suspending all flights from any of those nine countries over the next two days while they take time to investigate just how serious the new variant is.

Australian citizens and residents trying to arrive from those countries will still be able to come to Australia but they’ll have to go into immediate supervised quarantine for 14.

Those rules will vary depending on which state they arrive in.

The government is also asking anyone who’s recently arrived in Australia and has been in any of those countries within the last two weeks to isolate immediately and be tested for COVID-19.

There are currently 20 people in quarantine in Howard Springs after arriving from South Africa in the last week.

“They have all been tested. 19 negative, one positive,” Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a press conference on Saturday morning.

“The nature of that positive will be considered, and I understand the Northern Territory’s saying more today.

“But at this stage, there are no known cases of the Omicron variant in Australia.

“We’ve taken precautious action in the past. We’ve taken early action in the past. We are doing that again,” Minister Hunt said.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly says it’s still too early to know just what the threat is to Australia.

What do we know about this virus? We don’t know a lot about it, to be honest. 

“We have the genomic sequence, we know that there are mutations within that genomic sequence.

“What those mutations lead to in terms of clinical efficacy, vaccine efficacy, the ability of the public health social measures to keep control, we don’t know that yet.

“The only place we know where there is significant transmission and a number of these new variant cases South Africa.

“South Africa has less than 30% whole of vaccine coverage. It is a very different situation here.

“South Africa, unfortunately, has a very high rate of HIV and AIDS. So people who are immunocompromised.

“South Africa has a very different population mix in terms of the age range of the population.

“And it doesn’t, unfortunately, have the high level of surveillance and in some areas, clinical care that we have here in Australia, Doctor Kelly said.

Despite authorities taking these initial measures as a precaution, the Health Minister says he won’t hesitate to take any further action if it is required.

However, officials wouldn’t rule out bringing in lockdowns or new nationwide restrictions if the strain spreads here.