Australia’s human biosecurity emergency period under the Biosecurity Act 2015 will be extended for a further two months, Greg Hunt, Minister for Health announced on Friday.
These arrangements, which have been in place since 18 March 2020 to protect Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic, will continue until 17 February 2022.
The extension of these arrangements made by the Governor-General was informed by specialist medical and epidemiological advice provided by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer.
Fully vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents will not be affected by these restrictions. Restrictions for unvaccinated Australians will continue.
New Zealand citizens, Singaporean citizens and other category of travellers already approved for travel will also not be affected, including seasonal workers and international students.
“Continuation of these arrangement will allow the important measures currently in place to continue as the Government continues to reopen Australia and act decisively to respond to the emergence of the Omicron variant.”, the media statement from Minister Hunt said.
No decision on temporary residents
According to the Prime Minister’s office, National Cabinet received an update from the Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly on the Omicron variant and governments’ responses.
Professor Kelly advised that Australia is still in the early stages of understanding the Omicron variant. National Cabinet noted that the Commonwealth Health Minister has extended the human biosecurity emergency period under the Biosecurity Act 2015 for a further two months to 17 February 2022.
National Cabinet noted the steps taken by the Commonwealth to adjust Australia’s international border settings in a manner consistent with a suppression strategy, and proportionate to the current health information on Omicron.
As more evidence relating to disease severity, transmissibility and vaccine effectiveness becomes available, the Commonwealth will continue to consider Australia’s international border settings in a manner consistent with a suppression strategy.
The extension means the four existing emergency requirement Determinations will remain in force for the duration of the extension period, with the ability to be revoked at an earlier time, depending on medical advice.
These Determinations include:
- Mandatory pre-departure testing and mask wearing for international flights
- Restrictions on international travel from high risk countries
- Restrictions on outbound international travel for unvaccinated Australians
- Restrictions on the entry of cruise vessels within Australian territory (this Determination will be reviewed monthly).
These arrangements have been a significant contributing factor in Australia’s success in avoiding the catastrophic effects of COVID-19 seen in many other countries, Minister Hunt said in the statement.
“It has enabled Australia to respond quickly to moderate the number of inbound and outbound travellers, protect remote and indigenous communities from localised outbreaks, reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19 on flights and at international airports in Australia and further manage the number of cases in quarantine facilities.”, the statement said.
The human biosecurity emergency period ensures the appropriate legislative powers are available to the Australian Government as further information is gained and understood about Omicron, as well as to protect vulnerable communities in Australia.
“As has been the case throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, these arrangements will be reviewed regularly to take into account the latest medical advice.”, the statement said, adding, “The Government continues to work constructively with the cruise ship industry, with whom we remain actively engaged alongside state and territory governments to enable a phased resumption of cruising in Australia on the basis of medical advice.”
“As part of this work, the Government will continually review, on a monthly basis, whether the current restrictions on cruise ships can be safely lifted or amended.”
The measures in place under the Biosecurity Act 2015 can be repealed or amended at any time prior to the end of the human biosecurity emergency period and it will be continuously reviewed as a priority.