All the New Australian Restrictions in Place in Response to the Omicron Variant

omicron restrictions australia

As we’re all aware, the ongoing dystopia series that has gripped the world for the past 18 months, COVID-19, has a new installment for us, termed the omicron variant by the World Health Organisation.

As it stands, we still don’t know exactly how bad the new variant is, but scientists have warned that its 32 new mutations make it the furthest thing from the original SARS-COV-2 virus, and Australia has already begun putting restrictions in place to prepare for the spread of the virus.

Omicron has been detected in 18 people across NSW, the ACT, and the NT and health authorities are on high alert for indication of the transmission of the new variant. However, there are signs that omicron may actually be a good mutation of the virus as, although it appears that it could be more transmissible, it appears also to cause a much more mild infection. If this variant spreads widely, it could see many more people build up immunity to the virus without the risk of serious illness.

Here’s how Australia has reacted so far to the new omicron variant.

Federal Response

Governments around the world have set about putting travel restrictions in place over southern African countries in response to the new variant first having been identified there. This is despite the fact that the variant has since been shown to have been in Holland at least a week before South African scientists sounded the alarm in their country. Omicron has also been shown to be in Hong Kong, the UK, and Australia as well.

Australia however responded in much the same way, barring travellers from South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Malawi from entering the country. Anyone who has been in any of these eight countries in the past 14 days is not permitted to enter Australia unless they are a citizen, permeant resident, or the immediate family of either of these.

No direct flights will be flown from any of those countries into Australia for the next two weeks and anyone who has returned from these countries in the past two weeks is required to isolate immediately, get tested, and quarantine for 14 days, regardless of the result.

In addition, the opening up of international borders to fully vaccinated visa holders like international students and skilled workers has been pushed back to December 15. The returning of travellers from Japan and South Korea will also be paused until that date.

“On the basis of medical advice provided by the chief medical officer, Prof Paul Kelly, the national security committee has taken the necessary and temporary decision to pause the next step to safely reopen Australia to international skilled and student cohorts, as well as humanitarian, working holidaymaker and provisional family visa holders from 1 December until 15 December,” the prime minister said in a statement last week.

“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.”

New South Wales

The NSW government has stuck a precautionary tone in bringing in new quarantine measures for returning travellers from the southern African hotspots, however, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has said that he and Premier Dominic Perrottet are not keen on bringing back tougher restrictions.

“As one who has delivered that bad news to the community on many occasions, I feel like it’s time for a change in approach,” he said.

“We don’t know how many more variants of this virus are going to come.

“So, I think the challenge for us as a government and the other governments, particularly the Victorian government, that we’re working very closely with, is to strike a different balance to the ones we had in the past.”

The NSW Government has increased penalties for those who do not comply with COVID measures, bringing the fine for breaching isolation, testing and requirements up to $5000 from the previous $1000.

Those who have arrived from southern Africa in the past two weeks will need to isolate for two weeks from the date of their departure and get tested.

In addition, all overseas arrivals will need to get tested and isolate at home for three days.


The ACT has similar restrictions to NSW in that arrivals from the eight African countries already in Australia will need to quarantine for the next two weeks and immediately get tested.

Other fully vaccinated international arrivals will need to complete an international arrival document, get tested on arrival, isolate for three days, and get tested on their sixth day in the country.

There are also restrictions for interstate arrivals into the ACT depending on if you’ve been in a hotspot in the previous 14 days or not. Travellers from hotspots are allowed into the territory however you will need to complete an exemption form. Hotspots and information out the required documents can be found on the ACT government’s website.


Victoria has also tightened its border restrictions for international travellers into the state from any of the eight African countries. People who have already arrived from any of these countries will need to get in touch with health authorities, isolate for two weeks, and get tested immediately.

In addition to isolating for three days, all international arrivals will need to get tested between their fifth and seventh day in the country.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has said that “The last couple of days have shown us that this isn’t over, and our response needs to be nimble”.

“We’re taking proportionate, precautionary steps to keep Victorians safe until we know more about omicron and the risks it poses to our community.”

There are currently no restrictions on interstate arrivals.


Tasmania has had the biggest response to the omicron variant announcement, barring all travellers returning from an overseas location other than the South Island of New Zealand from entering the state.

Anyone who has been abroad at all since November 14 is not allowed into the state on principle and will need to be approved as an essential traveller by the Tasmanian Government if they wish to enter.

In a statement, the government has said that “In the lead up to our borders opening on 15 December, travellers from overseas are able to apply to enter Tasmania subject to quarantine arrangements.”

“This process has been temporarily suspended whilst further information is obtained in relation to the impact of omicron”.

On Monday however, Tasmania Health Commander Kathrine Morgan-Wicks said that there was no indication the state would change its plan to fully reopen its borders on December 15.

Domestic travellers will have to fill out a G2G PASS form in order to enter Tasmania and may have to quaratine in either a private residence or a government facility depending on the risk-level of the region you’re travelling from. Almost all of Australia is considered as some degree of risk to Tasmania so it’s worth reading the details on the Tasmanian government website.

South Australia

South Australia has moved to restrict travel to international arrivals in line with the federal decision to bar arrivals from southern African nations. 14 day quarantine has also been reinstated for all international arrivals.

All entrants will have to complete an EntryCheck SA application and will be taken to a government hotel upon arrival for assessment and testing although not everyone will be required to quarantine at a state facility.

As of 4 December, all arrivals from ACT, NSW, and VIC are classed as ‘Level 3 Moderate Risk’. This means you’ll have to take a COVID test 72 hours before arrival, get tested upon arrival, quarantine until that test returns a negative result, and get tested again on the 6th day after arrival. Arrivals also won’t be able to enter ‘high-risk’ settings like residential aged care facilities, disability care facilities, and certain areas in hospitals for seven days after their arrival.

SA Premier Steven Marshall has said that the new restrictions have “nothing to do with the delta variant” and that “We remain extraordinarily concerned about the omicron threat.”

Although there has been no decision made yet, South Australia does appear to be edging close to closing its borders to certain states so it’s best to keep an eye on this if you are planning to travel there soon.

Omicron Shouldn’t “Spook” Us

Thus far, all other states and territories have yet to make any changes to their lockdown plans or restrictions in response to the new variant. Of course, this could change at any moment, so it’s important to keep checking if you’re planning on travelling.

The federal government seems confident that the omicron variant will be “manageable” and that border restrictions are just temporary measures to give scientists time to work out exactly how dangerous this new strain is.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has said restrictions are being imposed “out of an abundance of caution but our overwhelming view is that while it’s an emerging variant, it’s a manageable variant.”

Morrison is clearly eyeing up the looming federal election and is keen to ensure that omicron does not derail plans to deliver a safe and functioning country by the next ballot. He has said that Australia is “not going back to lockdowns, none of us want that”.

“None of us want to go back to those long quarantines and all of those sorts of issues, and the way you protect against that, what we did last night, was protecting against that by having a sensible pause,” he said.

The PM has insisted that the restrictions will allow the country to “move forward into Christmas with confidence”.

“We need to make calm decisions, not get spooked by this.”

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