Omicron Covid variant: Greg Hunt backflips as Australia shuts border to southern Africa

Australia has stopped flights from nine southern African countries and closed its borders to all foreign nationals who have been to the region because of concern about the Omicron variant of concern.

The travel restrictions imposed by the United States, United Kingdom and European Union were followed by an announcement by the federal health minister.

The new measures were discussed in a series of meetings, including between the prime minister, Scott Morrison, and the chief medical officer, Paul Kelly. On the previous day, Hunt said Australia had no intention of closing its border to South Africa.


Everything you need to know about the new variant of Covid.

The restrictions apply to nine African countries, including South Africa.

Australians will be allowed into the country, but will have to stay in a hotel.

Anyone who has been to one of the countries listed in the past 14 days is required to be tested immediately.

There are fewer than 100 recent arrivals to Australia that would be subject to such orders. The Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory has quarantining for 20 people from South Africa. The variant is not yet known, but one of the cases is positive.

Hunt said there were no known cases of Omicron in Australia, but that precautionary measures were needed.

Hunt said the government had taken swift and decisive actions.

He said that they were taken on the best medical advice.

We have taken precautionary action in the past. We have taken early action before. We are doing that again.

We have one of the highest levels of coverage in the world, we have one of the most recently vaccine-vaccinated populations in the world, and we also have a well-prepared population.

As the world learned more about Omicron, Hunt said the measures could be changed quickly.

He said that they would not hesitate to take further actions if the medical evidence showed that more action was needed.

Protesters move down a street to protest against vaccinations. Darrian Traynor is pictured.

The variant has been classified as of concern by the World Health Organisation and the EU. Kelly said there was no clear indication of how it affected people who had been vaccinations.

He said they were crucial points. It is the reason why we are taking this precautionary approach, which is proportional to the risk, and putting in place the measures outlined by the minister.

The borders to South Africa should be closed, according to the leader of the Labor party.

He said that they knew the impact Delta had when it came here. We can't afford to be careless.

We should close the border with southern African countries just like our northern hemisphere counterparts have done.

The health authorities are still looking at the detail, but what they should have is an attitude which mitigates risk.

State health authorities have begun contacting international arrivals in order to quickly identify anyone who has been to southern Africa.

All travellers who had been in the region in the 14 days before arriving in Australia should be tested and isolated, according to the health department.

There are requirements to be tested and restrictions on attending certain high-risk premises for travellers who are fully vaccined.

Victoria recorded 1,252 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday.

Thousands of people gathered outside state parliament at midday to protest against vaccine mandates.

Protesters waved flags from Australia, Greece, Lebanon and Macedonia, and held signs with slogans such as "end segregation now" and "kill the bill", in reference to the legislation before parliament.

Motorists were urged to allow plenty of extra time if travelling into the city after several bus and tram routes were affected by the protest.

There was a protest in Hyde Park.

There were over 200 Covid cases in New South Wales on Saturday.

The man on the repatriation flight from South Africa was one of two new Covid cases recorded by the NT. There was a new case in the hotel.