Omicron travel ban labelled discriminatory

Australia's ban on arrivals from nine southern African nations has been branded discriminatory.

Australia's ban on arrivals from nine southern African nations has been branded discriminatory. Photo: AAP

Australia’s travel ban to several southern African countries due to the outbreak of the Omicron variant has been labelled as discriminatory by a senior diplomat.

South Africa’s high commissioner to Australia Marthinus van Schalkwyk said the ban needed to be overturned, due to large numbers of Omicron cases being detected in other continents, and not just in parts of Africa.

“We believe it is discrimination, because the only difference is these countries [on the travel ban list] are on the African continent,” he told ABC Radio on Monday.

“The ban is unfair, there is no evidence the ban works, the World Health Organisation confirms that.”

The travel ban to nine southern African nations was instituted as the first cases of the Omicron variant were detected outside the continent.

The detection also led to a two-week delay to the return of visa holders without the need for a medical exemption. It is now set to begin from December 15.

Despite the pause on international arrivals, 250 fully vaccinated students will arrive on Monday in Sydney as part of a NSW government pilot program.

The arrivals will still need to isolate in student accommodation for three days.

There have been 15 cases of Omicron detected in NSW, while two have been identified in the ACT and one in the NT.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said while the government had been cautious about the arrival of Omicron, the steps were necessary to assess the situation.

“It seems that plenty of advisors are indicating that vaccines continue to provide strong levels of protection and it is why people should get vaccinated if they haven’t done so already,” Senator Birmingham told ABC TV.

“We’re now at the point where we’re one of the most highly vaccinated countries in the world.”

Meanwhile, Australia’s medical regulator gave provisional approval for children aged five to 11-years-old to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The age group will be likely to get the vaccine from January next year.

Senator Birmingham said the time frame would allow for children to be vaccinated before they begin the new school year.

Vaccine experts at the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation are also expected to give their nod of approval soon after the group’s final checks.

“We will encourage every Australian to go out and get a vaccine when they’re eligible, and particularly for parents to do that with five to 11-year-olds,” Senator Birmingham said.

“It will be really great to be able to bring the rest of those school-aged kids on board and have them all vaccinated.”

NSW had 286 cases of coronavirus and one death on Sunday, while Victoria had 980 infections and seven deaths.

There were six cases in the ACT on Sunday.


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