CANBERRA: Australia's Health Minister Greg Hunt Saturday announced that the government would implement additional precautionary border security measures in response to the new Omicron COVID-19 variant.
Hunt said in a press conference here that Australia will suspend all flights from nine southern African countries for a period of 14 days as a matter of precaution, including South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique.
Under the measures effective immediately, anyone who is not a citizen or resident of Australia, or their dependents, and who have been there in the past two weeks can not enter Australia.
Australian citizens and residents or their dependents arriving from these countries will need to go into immediate supervised quarantine for 14 days subject to jurisdictional arrangements.
Hunt also said that "there are currently no known cases of the Omicron variant" in Australia.
On Saturday morning, Australia reported more than 1,400 new locally-acquired cases as the country continues to battle the third wave of COVID-19 infections.
The majority of new cases were in Victoria, the country's second-most populous state with Melbourne as the capital city, where 1,252 cases and five deaths were reported.
As of Friday 92.2 per cent of Australians, aged 16 and over had received one vaccine dose and 86.6 per cent had their second dose, according to the latest data released by the Department of Health.
The World Health Organization (WHO) classified on Friday the latest variant B.1.1.529 of SARS-CoV-2, which was first reported from South Africa, as a "Variant of Concern" (VOC), and asked countries to enhance surveillance and sequencing efforts.