Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called a meeting of state and territory leaders in response to the new Omicron COVID-19 variant.

Iran PressAsia: Morrison on Monday morning confirmed he will meet with premiers and chief ministers to discuss Australia's response to the Omicron coronavirus variant at a meeting of the national cabinet on either Monday or Tuesday.

It comes just two days before Australia is due to open its borders to international students and some visa holders on Dec. 1.

Morrison described the emergence of the strain as "concerning" but said it was too early to consider reinstating a mandatory 14-day quarantine period for all international arrivals.

"We'll consider that in the light of all the new information, and that's what we have to do with this," he told Seven Network TV.

"This isn't the first of the new strains that we've seen, and the evidence to date does not suggest that it is a more severe form of the virus, and issues of transmissibility and impact on vaccine, there is no evidence yet to suggest that there are issues there."

Speaking later on Monday morning, Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia's high COVID vaccination rate put the country in a strong position.

"We're in a vastly different position from where we were on Feb. 1 2020," he said in a press conference in Canberra.

Hunt announced that he has asked the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) to review the time frames for booster shots, which is currently set at six months after the second jab for all over-18s.

Health authorities of Australia's state of New South Wales on Sunday confirmed two cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant after conducting urgent genomic sequencing from overseas travelers.

On Monday morning, Australia reported more than 1,100 new locally-acquired COVID-19 cases as the country continues to battle the third wave of infections.

The majority of new cases were in Victoria, the country's second-most populous state with Melbourne as the capital city, where 1,007 cases and three deaths were reported.

So far about 92.3 percent of Australians aged 16 and over had received one vaccine dose and 86.7 percent had their second dose, according to the Department of Health.

WHO names new COVID-19 variant, Omicron

US officials have also said flights from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi will be blocked, mirroring earlier moves taken by the EU. The ban will come into effect on Monday.

In a statement, President Joe Biden called the move a "precautionary measure" taken until more is known about the variant.

Canada is also shutting its borders to foreign travelers who have recently been to South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. Foreign citizens will be banned from Canada if they have been to the seven nations in the past 14 days.

Scientists have said it is the most heavily mutated version yet, which means Covid vaccines, designed using the original strain from Wuhan, China, may not be as effective. 


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