Prime Minister Scott Morrison has hinted that Australia will likely open its doors to international students and skilled workers next week, while health officials continue to debate whether booster vaccinations should be timed differently.
The federal government said that emergency powers would be extended for another two months, until February 2022, keeping mandatory mask wearing for international flights and limitations on foreign travel from high-risk nations in place.
The impact of the Omicron form of Covid-19 was at the top of the agenda for the year’s final national cabinet meeting, but Morrison said his government was leaning toward reopening to international students and skilled workers on December 15th.
This was supposed to happen in early December, but it was postponed so officials could gather additional information about the Omicron variety.
When asked if the border will open on that day on Friday, Morrison said the government was “seeking more advice at the moment, but that is absolutely our inclination.” He intended to “keep moving forward, not backward.”
Despite Morrison’s hopeful outlook, the federal government has decided that some policies should be extended.
According to a statement released by Morrison’s office, Australia’s chief medical officer, Prof Paul Kelly, advised national cabinet that Australia was “still in the early stages of studying the Omicron variant.”
The committee heard that the federal health minister, Greg Hunt, had extended the Biosecurity Act’s human biosecurity emergency period until February 17th.
Hunt said the plans, which have been in place “to protect Australians throughout the Covid-19 pandemic” since March 2020 and have been extended numerous times, would be maintained depending on medical opinion.
“As the government continues to reopen Australia and act decisively to respond to the emergence of the Omicron variant,” Hunt said, the two-month extension would “allow the important measures currently in place to continue as the government continues to reopen Australia and act decisively to respond to the emergence of the Omicron variant.”
The extension of required pre-departure testing and mask wear for international flights, as well as limits on international travel from high-risk nations and outbound foreign travel for unvaccinated Australians, would all be part of this plan.
However, as additional information concerning Omicron becomes available, the federal government has the possibility of repealing any of these guidelines before February “to take into consideration the most recent medical advice.”
The extension will also keep limitations on cruise ships entering Australia in place. Hunt, on the other hand, said the government would “continually examine, on a monthly basis, whether the existing cruise ship limitations can be securely abolished or changed.”