BREAKING NEWS: Australia WILL open its borders to international students and other migrants in two days despite Omicron fears
- Australia will welcome in foreign students and skilled workers on Wednesday
- Mr Frydenberg said the country needs to keep economic momentum going
- He is extending $5million small business loan scheme for an extra six months
- Health Minister Greg Hunt says evidence shows vaccines work against Omicron
Australia will continue its re-opening plan despite concerns about the new Omicron strain of Covid-19.
The nation is on track to welcome foreign students and skilled workers for the first time since March 2020 on Wednesday after a two-week pause because of the highly transmissible new strain.
‘Yes, we are on track for that. That has been reconfirmed over the weekend,’ Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Monday.
Australia will start opening its international borders with students and migrants allowed from December 15. Pictured: Bondi Beach in Sydney
Mr Hunt said Australian officials are not worried about Omicron because, although more infectious, it appears to be milder than the Delta strain.
He said the ‘clear evidence’ shows that two doses of vaccination protects against severe illness and death.
‘The strong, clear evidence is that all of the vaccines continue to provide very clear coverage against serious illness, hospitalisation and loss of life,’ he said.
‘As a variant, it may well be milder and that could turn out, as many international sources have indicated, to be a quietly positive development for the world,’ he added.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg denied suggestions the Government was not being cautious enough over the strain identified in South Africa last month and said he’s determined to get the economy moving again.
‘We will continue to listen and follow the health advice, and it has served us well to date. But at the same time, we need to ensure that our economy keeps this momentum going,’ he told ABC TV on Monday.
‘We’ve seen 350,000 jobs come back since the start of September. We’ve seen business and consumer confidence lift. We’ve seen Australia maintain its AAA credit rating. We’ve seen a very strong pipeline of investment, both in the housing market and more generally across the economy,’ the Treasurer added.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has extended a loan scheme for small businesses. Pictured: A Melbourne cafe
His comments came after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned his nation – which is heading into a cold winter – faced a ‘tidal wave’ of Omicron cases and urged Britons to get their booster jab.
Mr Frydenberg also announced the Federal Government will extend a loan guarantee scheme for small to medium-sized businesses.
The scheme was due to expire at the end of December but will be pushed out for an extra six months, providing an extra $7billion worth of loans.
The scheme provides loans of up to $5million for small businesses with a turnover under $250million. The loans can last for 10 years.
The government will guarantee the loans on a 50-50 split with the banks and they can be used to refinance existing loans.
‘(The loans) can be used to upgrade your production line if you’re a manufacturer, or if you’re a tradie (to) go and get some new tools, or if you’re a cafe, to go and get a new kitchen,’ the Treasurer told the Nine Network on Monday.
Meanwhile, Mr Hunt has assured Australians the country has more than enough doses to cover the need for Covid-19 booster shots, even though the timing of a third short has been brought forward by a month.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation has confirmed booster doses can be provided from five months after completion of the primary course, rather six months as previously recommended.
ATAGI has also given approval to the Moderna vaccine as a booster shot for Australians aged 18 and over.
Like the Pfizer booster vaccine, it can be used irrespective of what a person received for their primary course of vaccination.
The Federal Government has not yet announced when the international border will re-open for tourists.
Mr Frydenberg denied suggestions the Government was not being cautious enough over Omicron
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