Concerning warning about more Covid restrictions amid Omicron fears

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has not ruled out making changes to travel restrictions amid fears the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is spreading in Australia.

Mr Hunt told reporters on Monday Prime Minister Scott Morrison will have a meeting with the National Security Committee to review actions in response to the new variant.

“We will not hesitate to take additional steps if the medical evidence is that more are required,” he said.

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt is pictured.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government was considering changes to travel restrictions based on the emergence of a new Covid-19 variant. Source: Getty Images

He added Mr Morrison will also meet with National Cabinet in the next 48 hours.

Non-Australian citizens from nine countries in southern Africa have been temporarily banned from entering the country.

Australians who have arrived in recent days will have to engage in 14 days of quarantine while arrivals before this period have been asked to quarantine from 14 days since departing.

Mr Hunt was asked if the restrictions to the nine countries are "a bit pointless" given the strain has appeared in other countries and he replied the restrictions are under "continuous review".

Two travellers from South Africa tested positive for the Omicron variant in Sydney on Saturday. Both of them are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic.

Australia's Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly said Omicron "is a variant of concern".

Passengers who travelled on Flight SQ237 from Singapore are seen exiting the international arrivals terminal at Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne.
People arrive in Melbourne from Singapore earlier this month. Source: AAP

He said health authorities are not sure if Omicron has worse symptoms as other variants but it "has replaced Delta as the major, possibly the only, virus circulating" in South Africa.

"Some reports out of South Africa are that it's mostly mild," Professor Kelly said.

"Other information we have is that hospitalisation rates are increasing. So, we need to get further information there, and we are getting that information."

The PM earlier on Monday urged people to remain calm.

"There's no evidence to suggest that this leads to any more severe disease," he told the Nine Network.

"If anything, it's suggesting a lesser form of disease, particularly for those who are vaccinated.

"Case numbers of themselves are not the issue. It's about whether people are getting a worse illness or it's going to put stress on your hospital system."

Omicron strain spreads to the Northern Territory

A returning traveller in Darwin has tested positive for the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

The man is currently in the Howard Springs quarantine facility.

He arrived from South Africa on November 25.

It is the first case of the Omicron strain being detected in the Northern Territory.

with AAP

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