Australia will now open its borders on December 15th instead of December 1st because of concern about the new Omicron Covid-19 variant, concerning foreign students and those wishing to see their family stuck overseas.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the delay as “necessary” after announcing that the government would need time to gather more information about omicron.
Australia’s borders have been closed to foreigners without an exemption for more than one and a half years, causing unprecedented skills shortages in the $2 trillion economy in a range of industries.
“The hospitality industry remains in a once-in-a-lifetime workforce shortage where there are tens of thousands of open positions around the country that are not being filled,” said Wes Lambert, head of Restaurant and Catering Australia.
There are many temporary visa holders stuck in the country away from family with limited means of re-entering Australia who would bear a great emotional burden around the holiday season if the border opening was delayed again, according to KPMG’s national leader for immigration services, Belinda Wright.
There is a strong feeling in Australia that the border will reopen soon with Scott Morrison facing an election early next year.
Critics of his have highlighted the lack of appropriate quarantine facilities leading to outbreaks in populated areas and the recent uncontrolled outbreaks of the Delta strain in New South Wales and Victoria in their criticism of his leadership during the pandemic, saying he will need all the support he can get to win an election.
Opening the borders to foreigners as well as Australians will help galvanise his supporter base who are mainly business owners crying out for more workers.
Scott Morrison is still optimistic about opening the border saying, “We have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with 92.3 per cent having had a first dose and 86.8 percent of our eligible population now double vaccinated, and we have one of the only whole of population booster programs being delivered, with around 415,000 Australians having received their booster.”
“Australia has a proven record of dealing with COVID, we have one of the lowest fatality rates, highest vaccination rates and strongest economies in the world,” he said in a statement.