NSW will not reimpose any more lockdowns despite recording four cases of the concerning Omicron variant of Covid-19, NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole has insisted.
During an interview with Channel 7’s Sunrise on Tuesday morning, Mr Toole emphatically said there would be “no lockdown” and “no hotel quarantine” as Australia hopes “to learn to live with the virus”.
“We don’t want to go back to lockdowns and see any knee-jerk reactions or blanket bans,” he said.
The deputy premier’s comments come after the Morrison government announced on Monday night it would delay the reopening of the Australian border to skilled workers, international students and other visa holders.
Mr Toole said the decision would give NSW Health “a little bit more time to understand this new variant”, adding states can’t go in and out of lockdown whenever a new Covid strain rears its head.
“We want all states to stick to the roadmap, stick to the plan,” the deputy premier said.
Quarantine rules for international arrivals
State and territory leaders are attending a national cabinet meeting on Tuesday to look at quarantine arrangements after Victoria, NSW and the ACT mandated all international arrivals to Australia isolate for 72 hours.
Victoria also reintroduced mandatory two-week quarantine for close contacts of Omicron cases regardless of their vaccination status.
The federal government is considering whether to bring forward booster shots recommended for six months after a second dose.
Omicron, which the World Health Organisation said on Monday (local time) poses a “very high” global risk, prompted Australia to close its borders on Saturday to travellers from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Seychelles, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini and Malawi.
Omicron was first detected by South African scientists on November 11.
All five of the confirmed Omicron cases detected in Australia, including one in the Northern Territory, are in quarantine.
Slamming borders shut could backfire: WHO
The WHO has warned developed nations like Australia that slamming borders shut to countries reporting new Covid-19 variants could backfire.
It says it could make countries less willing to share information about emerging strains.
“We don't like to see that level of restriction because that really punishes (those countries),” WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told Sky News on Tuesday.
“It makes other countries less comfortable about being so helpful to the rest of the world.”
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