Quarantines are back and the much anticipated return of vaccinated international students and seasonal workers is up in the air following the arrival of the Omicron variant in Australia.
NSW and Victoria have both rushed to reintroduce 72 hour quarantine periods for overseas arrivals, and both states are considering whether to reintroduce extended hotel quarantine periods for international travellers.
South Australia has extended its quarantine period for international arrivals to 14 days, up from seven, and now requires visitors from Sydney and Melbourne to provide proof of a negative Covid test taken no more than three days prior to arrival.
Queensland’s Deputy Premier Steven Miles, meanwhile, has told reporters that while nothing has changed at this stage, “people should be assured that we will take a cautious, well-prepared response”.
Commenting on the return of quarantine for affected countries, CEO of the Australian Hotels Association (AHA), Stephen Ferguson told The Shout that so far, the restrictions would have only a small bearing on the return of international travellers, as this was still in its very early stages.
He noted, however, that the industry is “operating with only about 60 per cent of our workforce.” Any long-term international border closure would be a great blow to the hospitality industry, which has been looking forward to the return working holiday tourists and international students, two groups that have traditionally provided sources of labour.
Ferguson did acknowledge the steps taken by the government so far to ease skill shortages in the sector to date.
“We appreciate the work the Federal government has done to bring back skilled migrants, working holiday makers and international students.
“With the threat of this new variant we realise this process [of reopening] will have to be gradual and controlled.”
The new variant is said to be more infectious than Delta, but decision-makers the world over are awaiting more information on Omicron, such as whether it is capable of causing more severe illness or evading existing vaccines and immune response.
Both Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Health Minister Greg Hunt have so far advised the states to maintain current roadmaps towards opening.