Dr Mark Veitch, Director of Public Health
Tasmania will introduce additional border measures in response to a new strain (Omicron or B.1.1.529) of the virus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19. This new variant has been identified as a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation.
Director of Public Health Dr Mark Veitch said the Tasmanian border restrictions will be in addition to national measures announced by the Australian Government today and will provide an additional buffer to reduce the risk to the Tasmanian community.
Dr Veitch said the Tasmanian measures would prevent entry to Tasmania of any traveller who had been in South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi or the Seychelles until they have completed 14 days of supervised quarantine, and the required testing, in the mainland state where they arrived.
Dr Veitch said it is too early to fully understand the transmissibility, severity of illness and effectiveness of current vaccines and treatments for the new variant but it was important to have precautionary measures in place while urgent investigations proceed. Indications of the rapid spread of the new variant in South Africa are a particular concern.
Dr Veitch said Tasmania’s current border restrictions, which require travellers who have been overseas in the 14 days before they arrive in Tasmania to get approval to enter the State, and quarantine for 14 days if approved, mean there is low risk to the Tasmanian community at this stage.
“We have identified only one person in Tasmania who had recently been in any of the southern African countries. They remain in quarantine and have so far tested negative to COVID-19, with further testing to be undertaken,” he said.
“The emergence of new variants highlights the ongoing risk that COVID-19 poses globally and the importance of people continuing to follow the key behaviours which are:
- Ensuring you are fully vaccinated when eligible;
- Getting tested if you experience any cold or flu symptoms;
- Staying home if sick;
- Washing and sanitising hands regularly;
- Using the Check in Tas app.
- Physical distancing when possible;
- Complying with current directions or restrictions.