Omicron has triggered global alarm, with border closures casting a shadow over a nascent economic recovery from a two-year pandemic
Hong Kong expanded a ban on entry for non-residents from several countries as global health authorities raced to curb the spread of the Omicron variant, while Australia’s cabinet will review on Tuesday containment steps after five travellers tested positive. Singapore’s health ministry said two travellers from Johannesburg who tested positive for the variant in Sydney had transited through its Changi airport.
Omicron has triggered global alarm, with border closures casting a shadow over a nascent economic recovery from a two-year pandemic. However, hopes the variant will be milder than feared have helped restore some calm to markets after a rout on Friday that saw roughly $2 trillion being wiped off the value of global stocks.
Traders also took comfort from remarks by President Joe Biden that the United States would not reinstate lockdowns. This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic, Biden said in remarks at the White House.
Countries around the world have moved quickly to tighten border controls to prevent a recurrence of last year’s strict lockdowns and steep economic downturns. In a late Monday statement, Hong Kong authorities said non-residents from Angola, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Zambia would not be allowed to enter as of Nov. 30.
The most stringent quarantine requirements will also be implemented on relevant inbound travellers from these places, the statement said. Additionally, non-residents who have been to Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Israel, and Italy in the past 21 days would not be allowed to enter the city from Dec. 2, it added.
The global financial hub, among the last places pursuing a zero-COVID strategy, has already banned non-residents arriving from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. In Australia, the five travellers with Omicron are all vaccinated and in quarantine, health officials said, adding they are asymptomatic or display very mild symptoms.
Meanwhile, Australia delayed on Monday the reopening of the nation’s borders for international students and skilled migrants, less than 36 hours before they were due to be allowed back in.
We’re doing this out of an abundance of caution but our overwhelming view is that whilst Omicron is an emerging variant, it is a manageable variant, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told a media conference.