Australia said late Monday it will delay the reopening of its international border by two weeks until Dec. 15 as authorities assess the risk of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
The government had planned to relax border restrictions on Wednesday to allow entry for eligible visa holders including skilled workers and international students, as well as travelers from Japan and South Korea.
"The temporary pause will ensure Australia can gather the information we need to better understand the Omicron variant," the government said in a statement.
Authorities are seeking to establish the efficacy of vaccines against Omicron, the range of illness, whether it may generate milder symptoms, and the level of transmission.
Australia is one of a number of countries including Britain, Canada and Germany that have confirmed cases of the new variant of concern, first reported to the World Health Organization by South Africa last week.
Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters on Tuesday that the postponement was made "out of an abundance of caution," adding that the government's "overwhelming view is that while it's an emerging variant, it's a manageable variant."