/ 01 December 2021

State and territory leaders hold the line on Omicron

Image source: AAP
Image source: AAP

National Cabinet has met and concluded to stay the course on its COVID reopening plan, despite the looming Omicron threat. That means no lockdowns and no closed borders – at this stage anyway… And it means anyone planning Christmas away from home can breathe through that anxiety, at least for a little while. “We’re not going back to lockdowns, none of us want that,” PM Scott Morrison said yesterday.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly told state and territory leaders that it would be at least a fortnight until more is known about the threat from the newly declared “variant of concern”. He said that while early signs point to it being more transmissible than earlier variants, there’s no evidence that Omicron would be too strong for the current crop of vaccines, or that it will cause more serious illness than the Delta strain. And if that wasn’t enough, the meeting was shown confidential booking data from Qantas and Virgin Australia showing hundreds of thousands of bookings would be threatened if new restrictions were put in place. In the end, reports say leaders recommitted to the existing timetable for reopening borders, including in Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and WA. Meanwhile, the Omicron threat remains very real in NSW, which yesterday reported that a person who has now tested positive with the new variant visited shops and restaurants across Sydney and the Central Coast while unknowingly infectious.

Well, the US has come to the same conclusion as Oz. President Joe Biden says he sees no need for a new lockdown “for now… if people are vaccinated and wear their masks”. He will release the government’s plan to “fight COVID this winter” later this week. Note: America has not recorded any Omicron cases to date, but neighbour Canada has. Across the pond, the UK is said to be bracing for hundreds of cases to be confirmed in the coming weeks. Experts say things will move quickly, but as things stood late yesterday, fewer than 20 countries have reported more than 200 verified cases of the new COVID variant, and at least 70 nations have imposed travel restrictions. Meanwhile, drugmaker Moderna has predicted that existing vaccines will be less effective against Omicron than they were against Delta. But the vaccine geniuses are already working on tweaks. Phew…

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