Australia rules out lockdowns despite Omicron variant spread
Sydney, Australia, Dec 21 (EFE).- The Australian government on Tuesday ruled out lockdowns despite surging Covid-19 cases and concerns about the Omicron variant, detected in the Oceania country at the end of November.
“We’re going to need to continue to calibrate how we manage this virus and how we live with this virus in the face of Omicron. Of course that is necessary. But we’re not going back to lockdowns, we’re not going back to shutting down people’s lives,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a press conference.
“And we have to ensure as a country and as leaders around the country, we have put in place measures that Australians can live with. And what that means is we have to move from a culture of mandates to a culture of responsibility,” he added.
Australia, which has fully vaccinated more than 90 percent of its target population, began gradually reopening its borders – closed since March 2020 – in November this year by allowing its citizens to travel abroad and vaccinated permanent residents to enter.
Since last week, it has also opened the door to the arrival of international students as well as qualified foreign workers with the aim of easing labor shortages in the agricultural sector.
The authorities are also looking to accelerate the administration of booster doses to combat the Omicron variant after the first local cases linked to this strain were confirmed at the beginning of the month.
Australia has managed to record relatively lower numbers of infections – over 251,000 – and deaths – 2,134 – using a strict strategy of localized lockdowns against the spread of Covid-19, including six lockdowns over 262 days in the city of Melbourne.
The country, which overcame its worst wave of the pandemic in October, has seen a spike in cases in recent days.
On Tuesday, more than 3,000 new infections were detected in New South Wales state and over 1,200 in Victoria although the situation in hospitals remains under control. EFE