The Christmas travel plans of tens of thousands of Aussies could be thrown into chaos as states once again close their borders. But some premiers remain adamant theirs will stay open despite the spread of the Omicron COVID variant.
With news of a suspected Omicron case in Queensland, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has reinstated restrictions for those travelling from Adelaide. WA has also followed suit.
People arriving in Queensland who have been in the Adelaide metropolitan area since 28 November will need to be fully vaccinated and enter mandatory quarantine for 14 days.
The news comes as Queensland is set to reach 80 per cent of its population fully vaccinated, which is the trigger for the state to fully reopen its borders. The milestone was originally predicted to occur on 17 December but the state is on track to hit that number early.
SA Premier Steven Marshall has kept the border with the eastern states open for now, but announced that arrivals from NSW, Victoria and ACT must get a test on arrival and isolate until they receive a negative result. They will need to be tested again on day six of their stay.
Mr Marshall says if the situation gets worse, the hard borders may return before Christmas.
“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.”
But the premiers of the two largest states, NSW’s Dominic Perrottet and Victoria’s Daniel Andrews, have committed to keeping their state borders open even if Omicron cases spike.
“We won’t be pursuing Omicron zero here, we don’t think that makes any sense – it might already be here,” Mr Andrews said.
“The good news is that while it’s more infectious, the evidence suggests it is milder.”
Mr Perrottet said he had spoken with the Victorian Premier via text and they were in agreement that restrictions should not change each time new variants emerge.
“The mental health and economic impacts of continually opening and closing borders is very significant and our Victorian colleagues feel as strongly about this as we do,” he said.
“We won’t be altering our roadmap every time there is a bump in the road and I think Mr Andrews and I are in agreement on that approach.”
Early evidence suggests that although the Omicron variant may be more infectious, it may produce milder symptoms in the majority of the population. Federal chief health officer Professor Paul Kelly says the government is monitoring the situation closely, but had no plans to reintroduce any restrictions.
“Of the over 300 [Omicron] cases that have now been diagnosed in many countries, they have all been very mild or, in fact, had no symptoms at all,” Prof. Kelly said in a statement.
“Will more lockdowns be necessary for Omicron? I really hope not. That is certainly not the plan and we are looking to see what we need to do to keep Australia safe but also to keep on our reopening agenda.”
Will your Christmas travel plans be affected by Omicron? Are you making travel arrangements and keeping your fingers crossed? Let us know in the comment section below.
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