Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia’s border reopening will not take place on December 1, calling the delay "a necessary and temporary decision,” said local reports. Source: William West/AFP

Australia’s border reopening will be delayed by two weeks after the country reported its first cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant. 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday that following advice from Australia’s chief health officer, the country will delay the reopening of Australia to international skilled and student cohorts, as well as humanitarian, working holiday makers and provisional family visa holders from December 1 to December 15 after the first cases of the new variant were detected on Sunday.

The reopening to travellers from Japan and the Republic of Korea will also be paused until December 15, said the press statement. 

Australia's border reopening

Australia’s border reopening will be delayed by at least two weeks. Source: Trevor Collens/AFP

Australia’s border reopening paused

Morrison said: “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.”

Australia’s border is already closed to travellers except for fully vaccinated Australian citizens, permanent residents and immediate family, as well as fully vaccinated green lane travellers from New Zealand and Singapore and limited exemptions.

All arrivals to Australia also require a negative PCR test and to complete Australian traveller declaration forms detailing their vaccination status and confirming requirements to comply with state and territory public health requirements, said the statement.

Under state public health requirements, New South Wales and Victoria have already initiated testing and 72 hours of isolation requirements for Australian citizens, permanent residents and immediate family members entering the country. In other states, 14 days of managed quarantine is required, and traveller cap arrangements are in place.

The Australian government’s quarantine facility at Howard Springs in Darwin is available to support returning Australians each fortnight as required. Morrison has called a meeting of the National Cabinet tomorrow to further discuss the Omicron variant and Australia’s response.

According to Reuters, the return of international students alone is worth about 35 billion Australian dollars a year to the Australian economy.