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Australia PM rules out return to lockdown in wake of new COVID strain

The Australian prime minister on Tuesday said his government will not return to COVID-19 lockdowns after the confirmation of the omicron variant.

"We're not going back to lockdowns. None of us want that. None of us want to go back to those, those long quarantines and all of those sorts of issues," Scott Morrison told a news conference in the capital Canberra.

The government, however, delayed its plan of reopening the country's borders for international students and skilled workers for 15 days starting Dec. 1.

It said that the temporary pause will ensure Australia can better understand the omicron variant, including the "efficacy of vaccines, the range of illness and the level of transmission."

The heavily mutated variant was detected in South Africa earlier this month, prompting several countries to issue a travel ban on Southern African countries.

Australia, which has so far found five omicron infections, has now delayed the restrictions it was set to ease.

It has also banned entry of non-citizens who have been to South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Malawi and Mozambique in the last 14 days.


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