Canberra: The Australian government has delayed the reopening of the country's borders amid concerns over the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Monday night that the National Security Committee (NSC) pushed the planned easing of border restrictions for international students and visa holders back from December 1 to December 15.
The decision was made based on advice from Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Paul Kelly to the NSC that more time was needed to evaluate whether Omicron poses a greater threat than the Delta variant, Xinhua news agency reported.
"The temporary pause will ensure Australia can gather the information we need to better understand the Omicron variant, including the efficacy of the vaccine, the range of illness, including if it may generate more mild symptoms, and the level of transmission," said a joint statement by Morrison with cabinet ministers.
"We will continue to take sensible and responsive evidence based action, led by medical experts. This will ensure we can open safely, and stay safely open as we learn to live with the virus."
Australia's border was supposed to open to visa holders for the first time since March 2020, paving the way for migrants to enter the country and restart the lucrative international education market. The reopening of travel from Japan and South Korea has also been delayed until December 15. Fully vaccinated Australian citizens and residents will still be able to enter the country subject to quarantine requirements in the state or territory in which they arrive. As of Monday, Australia has confirmed five cases of the variant.