Border Rules Tightened Over Omicron Concerns

Border Rules Tightened Over Omicron Concerns
Countries are reimposing travel restrictions over concerns about a new coronavirus variant. Photo: Adobe Stock.

Australia has banned non-citizens who have been in nine African countries during the past 14 days from entering the country amid concerns over the new Omicron coronavirus variant, which the WHO has classified a “variant of concern”. NSW, Victoria and the ACT have also re-introduced self-isolation requirements for travellers arriving from all overseas countries.

The federal government closed the border on Saturday to non-citizens who have been in the following nine countries during the past fortnight:

  • Botswana
  • Eswatini
  • Lesotho
  • Malawi
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Seychelles
  • South Africa
  • Zimbabwe

There are currently no direct flights from any of these countries to Australia.

The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFAT) has also reclassified its travel advice for all nine countries to “Do not travel”, meaning most travel insurance will no longer cover travel to these destinations.

Australian citizens returning from these countries are now required to undergo 14 days of hotel quarantine.

The NSW, Victorian and ACT governments are also now requiring international arrivals from all other countries to self-isolate for at least 3 days, with further updates expected over the coming days. These states had reopened for quarantine-free international arrivals on 1 November 2021.

Australian Frequent Flyer understands that since Sunday, all international arrivals into Victoria are being placed into hotel quarantine for 72 hours. NSW is also considering whether to restart its hotel quarantine program.

“If the medical evidence shows that further actions are required, we will not hesitate to take them and that may involve strengthening or expanding the restrictions,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Saturday.

Other governments around the world are also starting to react to the emergence of the Omicron variant. Some including the United States, Canada, European Union and UK have banned flights from southern Africa, while the UK now requires all travellers to get a COVID-19 PCR test after arrival and self-isolate until receiving a negative result. Previously, people arriving in the UK from most other countries could get a rapid antigen test on arrival and did not have to isolate.

Israel has banned all foreigners from entering the country for the next 14 days.

According to the World Health Organization, the Omicron variant “has a large number of mutations”, could be more infectious and could come with an increased risk of reinfection, compared to other variants of concern. But more research is needed and it is not yet known whether omicron could cause more severe symptoms or may be resistant to existing COVID-19 vaccines. Until more is learned about this, governments globally are adopting a cautious approach.

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Predictions of when international flights may resume/bans lifted

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]