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The additional 14 days, ending December 15, will allow the Commonwealth to better understand what kind of threat Omicron might pose, but it is clear the Federal Government wants all states and territories committed to opening up in line with the national plan, if safe to do so.
The five known cases of Omicron in Australia are young, double-vaccinated and some have previously caught and recovered from earlier COVID-19 infections.
Chief Health Officer Professor Paul Kelly said the five cases have shown “very mild or in fact no disease”.
All are in quarantine, with four in New South Wales, one in the Northern Territory.
What happens to Australia’s borders will become clear in the next fortnight, Professor Kelly said, but he foreshadowed Australia needs to live with Omicron and further variants.
“We cannot keep this Omicron variant out forever from Australia. Eventually, it will be here.”
National Cabinet will meet this afternoon, with Omicron and quarantine strategies and border discussions likely top of the agenda.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said borders and quarantine decisions would be made by states and territories.
“What I can say is from the Federal Government’s point of view, we are very determined to do all we can to reopen our borders but we will do that in a safe manner,” Ms Andrews said.
Mr Hunt said the national plan to be discussed with state and territory leaders this afternoon was all about “opening up”.
“There’s a national plan and we’re all working towards the national plan,” he said.
“The national plan has always contemplated temporary measures but the direction of the national plan is unchanged.”
Meanwhile, at the top of ATAGI’s agenda right now is to work out if any changes to Australia’s booster plan are warranted.
Mr Hunt said there was “ample” vaccine stock to deliver jabs and boosters.
Anti-vaxxers target Indigenous communities
During today’s coronavirus briefing, Mr Hunt revealed anti-vax groups have been aggressively targeting Indigenous Australians to try and scare people away from COVID-19 vaccinations.
Touching on the threat of Omicron to Indigenous Australians, Mr Hunt said there had been “a strong spike” in vaccinations among that demographic in recent weeks.
But anti-vax groups had waged a persistent information war that the government was countering.
“There has been some … fairly malicious targeting by some anti-vax groups of Indigenous groups and we’ve been fighting against that for a long while, but we’re beginning to win that fight,” Mr Hunt said.
Indigenous vaccination rates sit at 74 per cent first dose and 62.6 per cent second dose.