The Morrison government on Wednesday delayed its plan to open the international border to skilled workers and students, as it awaits more information about the Omicron version of COVID-19.
The Cabinet’s National Security Committee on Monday night put a moratorium on reopening – including for humanitarians, worker leave makers and holders of provisional family visas – until December 15.
The reopening for travelers from Japan and South Korea will also be postponed.
The national cabinet will meet on Tuesday to discuss the latest developments in the pandemic.
The government said it was acting on the advice of Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly while postponing the opening of the border. This pause will ensure time to gather the necessary information “to better understand the Omicron variant,” including how effective the vaccines are against it.
The border is currently closed to all but vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents and their families and “green lane” travelers from Singapore and New Zealand.
The postponement is a setback for businesses facing severe labor shortages. “We need to avoid jumping into the shadows as every new COVID version appears,” Ines Willocks, chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, said in a commentary in anticipation.
“Covid is in the community whether it’s Delta or Omicron or whatever the next version will be. Instead of over-incentives, the best support for business will be by sticking to the live-COVID plan and keeping our state and international borders open.”
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The national account data for the September quarter will be released on Wednesday, which will show the economy going backwards in that quarter due to the lockdown. But on all evidence it has since recovered strongly.
With the number of cases now on the Omicron version in Australia the government is cautiously optimistic that it may be a mild illness but is not taking any risks.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said: “It may be the milder version of the disease. It’s still COVID, it’s still dangerous, but there may be some quiet positive hope in what is emerging, but it’s too early to make a definitive call.” .
He has asked the Technical Advisory Group on Immunization to review the current period between the second vaccine dose and the booster shot, which is six months. The government has a lot of boosters available and would bring them forward if they had advice.
budget on March 29
Meanwhile, the government released the parliamentary meeting calendar for next year, presenting the budget on March 29, which would mean May elections.
Scott Morrison has been hinting recently that he wants another budget ahead of the election, although some believe it would be prudent to go to the polls in March, thus avoiding sitting in Parliament again later this week. Refrain from.
When an interviewer referred to the March election on Monday, Morrison said “the elections are due by the third week in May”.
Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese told ABC that the calendar shows that “it is likely, regardless of a budget, that we will sit together in the House of Reps and five days in the Senate in the first six months of next year”.