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Federal government pauses international arrivals for students and visa holders as it awaits Omicron information.

The federal government has deferred Wednesday’s planned easing of border restrictions for international students and other eligible visa holders until December 15.

The government says the temporary pause will allow it to gather further information about new Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The National Security Committee of cabinet made the decision today following medical advice from the Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly.

The government says the temporary pause will allow it to gather more intelligence about new Omicron variant of COVID-19, and whether it poses a greater threat than Delta.

Border still open to Australians:

Australia was due to reopen to international students, skilled migrants as well as humanitarian, working holiday maker and provisional family visa holders from December 1.

However, the National Security Committee on Monday evening decided to pause that step.

“The temporary pause will ensure Australia can gather the information we need to better understand the Omicron variant, including the efficacy of the vaccine, the range of illness, including if it may generate more mild symptoms, and the level of transmission,” a statement said.

Australia’s international border is closed to travellers except for fully vaccinated Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family, as well as fully vaccinated “green lane” travellers from New Zealand and Singapore and limited exemptions.

The government has also delayed the reopening of travel with Japan and the Republic of Korea until December 15.

National cabinet will meet tomorrow afternoon to consider its response to the new strain, which has been labelled a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization.

Omicron was first reported to the WHO by South Africa earlier this month, and scientists are racing to understand whether the new strain poses a greater threat than Delta.

What do we know about the Omicron variant?
On Saturday the Commonwealth banned non-citizens from nine countries in the southern part of the African continent from entering Australia.

Following advice from Professor Kelly, the government has removed Seychelles from the list of countries of concern.

Non-citizens travelling from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Malawi and Mozambique are not allowed to enter Australia.

New South Wales and Victoria are requiring all Australians returning from overseas to isolate for 72 hours, while other states have mandated 14 days of managed quarantine for international arrivals in response to the new variant.

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