Australia 'on track' for December 15 reopening despite Omicron threat

Announcement comes amidst a growing number of Omicron variant cases

Australia 'on track' for December 15 reopening despite Omicron threat

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt has confirmed that the country will be pushing through its plan to lift border restrictions for skilled labourers and students overseas on December 15. 

"The reopening of the borders for students and for skilled labour on 15 December. Yes, we are on track for that, that’s been reconfirmed over the weekend," Hunt told reporters in a press conference.

The confirmation comes amid the growing threat of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which initially pushed back the plan from December 1 to December 15.

"So, we said on 29 November that we're intending to reopen on 15 December - that has been through the National Cabinet process," Hunt added.

Victoria has taken steps towards reopening over the weekend and will be going ahead, according to Hunt, and it was also "reaffirmed over the weekend in consultation with the Prime Minister, the National Cabinet discussion, and the advice from the Chief Medical Officer."

Read more: Preparing for Omicron: 6 steps for rolling out a vaccine mandate policy

Prime Minister Scott Morrison also made a separate confirmation on the matter, as he spoke to reporters while standing next to South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

"And on Wednesday of this week, we will move again forward,” he said. “The borders will be reopened both to Korea and to Japan and for skilled migration and for students as we conclude the pause that we announced several weeks ago.”

The confirmation came despite the growing cases of Omicron variant in the country, with 64 new cases of the strain reported in New South Wales, The Guardian reported on Monday. Hunt stressed to reporters that while the Omicron variant is highly transmissible, the advice is still to push through with vaccinations to avoid hospitalisation and deaths.

"Firstly, it's likely and we are still in the early stages that Omicron is a highly transmissible variant," said the health minister. "Secondly, and we expressly tested this with Professor [Paul] Kelly this morning, the advice continues to be that all of our vaccines provide strong, clear protection against serious illness, hospitalisation and loss of life. I think that’s a very important point."

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