Covid news live: Australia braces for Omicron as states and territories tighten border restrictions

Allowing travellers from Japan and South Korea into Australia without needing to quarantine from Wednesday will go ahead as planned at this stage, Trade Minister Dan Tehan says.

However, the Morrison government is keeping a watchful eye on developments surrounding the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Australia has shut its borders to nine southern African countries and NSW, Victoria and the ACT have brought in new rules for all international arrivals amid concern over Omicron.

“We think that’s got the balance right at the moment,” Mr Tehan told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program from Geneva.

“But obviously there is more work to be done in understanding this new variant and the potential impacts it might have.”

Mr Tehan had travelled to Switzerland for a World Trade Organization ministerial meeting, only to find it had been cancelled because of the clampdown on travellers from the southern African states.

Urgent genomic sequencing is under way to determine whether two people, who tested positive for the virus in Sydney overnight after spending time in Africa, have the Omicron variant.

The two arrivals are in special health accommodation and 12 others on the flight from Doha who had been in the region will do two weeks’ mandatory quarantine …

NSW, Victoria and the ACT will make all overseas arrivals quarantine at home for 72 hours. People already in the state who have been in the nine countries in the past two weeks must isolate for 14 days and be immediately tested.

Anyone in those jurisdictions who have been to the nine southern African countries in the past 14 days must get a PCR test and quarantine immediately.

South Australia extended the length of its quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated Australian international arrivals to two weeks, and made small changes to its interstate arrival regime.

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan announced SA would be designated “low risk”, introducing a quarantine requirement for international arrivals from the state.

Tasmania will bar entry to people who have been in southern Africa unless they have first completed two weeks of supervised quarantine on the mainland.

Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said Omicron was spreading quickly, but it wasn’t clear that it caused more severe symptoms than existing strains.

It is not yet known whether existing vaccines are any less effective against the new variant than prevailing strains.

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