THE Victorian government on Saturday night followed the federal government's lead to introduce travel restrictions for southern African countries as a result of the new Omicron variant.
From Sunday, anyone arriving into Victoria who has been in one of nine southern African countries over the past two weeks will be required to undertake 14 days of hotel quarantine.
Anyone already in Victoria who has been to those countries in the past 14 days must get tested and self-isolate for 14 days from the day they entered the state.
All new vaccinated arrivals and unvaccinated children under 12, who arrive in Victoria from any other country must quarantine at home for 72 hours. Unvaccinated arrivals will have to quarantine for 14 days.
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Health Minister Martin Foley said the changes would help manage the new COVID-19 variant.
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"It's all about buying us some time to understand the implications of this and what the most appropriate responses are as part of a national coordinated effort," Mr Foley said.
"We're taking these modest, cautious steps.... to keep our Victorian community safe and to ensure that we can continue to stay open."
Chief health officer Brett Sutton said there were still too many unknowns about the Omicron variant.
"What we know about Omicron is really not enough," Professor Sutton said. "There is a lot more that we need to find out.
"The key question is is it more transmissible and how transmissible is it. It certainly seems to have spread very quickly in southern Africa and in the Republic of South Africa in particular.
"It has become the predominant variant in that country already in a very short period of time."
Professor Sutton said health authorities would also look at whether this new variant produced more severe or milder disease than the Delta variant.
There was also a question as to whether the current vaccines would protect people against the new variant, Professor Sutton said.
"It is sensible for us to take this precautionary approach, and hopefully temporary approach, as many other countries around the world have done," he said.
AUSTRALIA has closed its borders to people from nine African countries after the World Health Organisation declared a new "concerning" COVID-19 variant.
The Omicron variant first emerged in Botswana and has been detected in South Africa, Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt on Saturday confirmed there were currently zero known cases of the Omicron variant in Australia.
But Mr Hunt said the government was taking a number of precautionary steps in light of the WHO's declaration.
The minister announced that non-Australian citizens or residents who had been in nine African countries in the past 14 days would not be allowed to enter Australia.
The countries of concern are South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, The Seychelles, Malawi, and Mozambique
Australian citizens and residents who have arrived from one of those countries will need to go into immediate supervised quarantine for 14 days.
The same restrictions apply to people like international students and skilled migrants who have arrived from travel bubbles after spending time in one of the nine countries in the past 14 days.
Anyone who has already arrived in Australia after being in one of the African countries within the past 14 days must immediately isolate and be tested for COVID-19.
All flights into Australia from the nine countries will be suspended for a period of two weeks.
Mr Hunt said there were 20 people quarantining in the Northern Territory who arrived from South Africa in the past week.
One of those people has returned a positive COVID-19 test, although the nature of the coronavirus variant is still unknown.
"We've taken precautious action in the past," Mr Hunt said. "We've taken early action in the past. We are doing that again.
"The difference is that we now have strong vaccines. We have one of the highest levels of coverage in the world."
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