The Omicron variant has raised concerns about interstate travel. But what exactly does it mean for your Christmas plans?
Australians hoping to travel interstate for Christmas could have their plans thrown into disarray as state and territory leaders consider closing their borders.
Restrictions have been reintroduced in a number of states due to the emergence of the Omicron variant, which has now been detected in NSW and the ACT.
There is also a suspected case in Queensland.
The strain, which was first identified in southern Africa last week, has raised the alarm over the vaccines efficacy against new variants.
Queensland and WA have thrown their hard border back up to South Australia as a precaution. Arrivals from Adelaide will be required to go into home or hotel quarantine for 14 days.
Meanwhile, South Australian Premier Steven Marshall announced people from NSW, Victoria and ACT must be tested on arrival and isolate until they receive a negative result. They will also need to get another test on day six of their stay.
Mr Marshall indicated a return to a hard border before Christmas was a possibility.
“It may become necessary. I hope it doesn’t,” he told reporters.
“We would only do that if we wanted to make sure that we still enjoy a Christmas here in SA. This is a balancing act.”
Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said she would have “more to say” about the planned opening of the border to NSW and Victoria on Monday.
So what does this mean for Christmas travel plans?
Australia’s chief medical officer Paul Kelly has said he is confident the nation’s high vaccination will limit the spread of Covid-19 over the Christmas holiday period.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Professor Kelly said he would not take a decision to recommend border closures lightly.
“Closing borders is a big decision. It’s a decision for government not taken lightly,” Professor Kelly said.
“We have all the other measures in place – test, trace and isolate – the public health and social measures, all of those matters we have and crucially, the vaccine, and we are one of the most vaccinated nations in the world right now.”
He also warned Australians to prepare for the Omicron variant to overtake Delta as the dominant strain across the world but added there was no evidence to suggest an increase in severity.
“This will spread around the world quite quickly. I suspect within the next few months Omicron will be the new virus in the world,“ Professor Kelly said.
“We have no evidence at the moment that the vaccine does not work, and as far as we know, the vaccine works against this new virus.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has put a pause on Australia’s reopening plan until December 15.
Existing arrangements will continue for Australians, permanent residents, immediate family (including parents) and other exempt visa holders including travellers through the New Zealand and Singapore travel bubbles.