Returning now to our top story, and the reopening of Australia's international borders have been put on hold.
We're joined now by Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Sonya Bennett in Canberra. Doctor, thank you so much for your time. Are we any closer to knowing how the threat of Omicron is going to play out? What more do we know about this variant?
Well, thank you, Sylvia. A good morning to you and listeners. We don't know a whole lot more than yesterday, but we do expect to know a lot more in the coming couple of weeks. So, I mean, what we do know is that it does- it's been nominated a variant of concern, and that is because it really appears to be highly transmissible and infectious and including in people who've had infection previously. But what we're really interested to know, and what's going to be key and critical, is how severe illness is with this new variant. And it certainly, from the information we have to hand, it seems to be mild, even in our own cases we've had in Australia, and then, more importantly, how effective the vaccines are as well against preventing against, not just infection, but really against severe disease. So over the next couple of weeks, that information is going to be critical.
Well National Cabinet are meeting today to discuss the next steps. What do you think the recommendations are going to be? And I guess, for most Aussies out there, they're worried. Is the country going to be open for Christmas?
Well, the measures to date, I mean, the Government did act swiftly on Saturday, the Chief Medical Officer and Minister Hunt in placing a ban on the eight or nine countries from South Africa on foreign visitors, and also requiring any Australians, residents, and family who've been in those countries in the last 14 days to go into quarantine. So those measures are already in place, combined with the measures announced last night by the Government, really about just a pause on the reopening that was planned for two weeks. I think that puts Australia in good stead. We're a highly vaccinated country. Early signs are that the vaccine does protect against severe disease, but we really need the next couple of weeks to understand more about the virus, and we'll continue to do that, as health authorities monitor all that information, provide advice to government. I think what individuals can do is continue to do what they've been doing all along, really. Many- the vast majority of people are now fully vaccinated. We've got over 86 per-cent double vaccinated coverage around the country. You know, if people are unwell, we urge them to stay at home. Get a test, practice hygiene, practice social distancing when you're in crowds when you can. And I think, you know, combined, I think together, we can be optimistic about Christmas.
Okay. We hope that is the case. Dr Sonya Bennett, we appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.