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States told to "show compassion and common sense" and avoid Christmas border bans

Australian states have been urged to remain open for Christmas and beyond, despite the increase in new COVID-19 cases across the country.

Australian states have been urged to remain open for Christmas and beyond, despite the increase in new COVID-19 cases across the country.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is urging state and territory leaders to hold the line on lockdowns amid fears the new Omicron variant will lead to the reimposition of restrictions.

Mr Frydenberg says Australians need to have every confidence going into 2022.

“We need to live with the virus. Nobody wants to go back into lockdown. That has a devastating effect on the economy … (and) people’s health and wellbeing,” he told the Seven network.

“My message to the premiers is not to panic, don’t overreact, show compassion and common sense.”

Labor frontbencher Bill Shorten said people would continue to follow health advice with regards to the new Omicron variant but non-compliance would increase if restrictions were “bureaucracy gone mad”.

“If we are going to live with COVID-19, which we are, let’s just have sensible regulations which do the job, not just bureaucratic overkill which just drives people to despair,” he told the Nine Network. 

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham also encouraged states to push ahead with border openings, at least in part so tourism can rise once more.

“(States have) got to do so in ways that ensure people can effectively reunite with their loved ones, that travel can effectively resume and, particularly, those tourism businesses across Queensland can have consumers with confidence to actually travel to them,” he said.

“That’s where they’ve got to really iron out some of the creases.”

Christmas in Queensland

Medical experts have called for COVID-19 booster shots to be brought forward again in the wake of the new Omicron variant.

University of NSW epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws is recommending a four-month interval, a reduction from the current advice of five months.

“We need to get you (in for boosters) before your immune system starts waning when you have a high level of a variant in the community, so that you supercharge your immune system,” Professor McLaws told the ABC.

The emergence of the Omicron variant has led to a surge in cases in several states, with NSW reaching a post-lockdown high of 1360 daily infections.

As of Wednesday, there were 109 confirmed cases of Omicron in Australia. It comes as the NSW health minister warned daily cases could top 25,000 in January.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said the state would move NSW from a high risk to extreme risk category from Saturday, with travel from NSW not permitted except for extraordinary circumstances.

Approved travellers will need to return a negative test and do 14 days of hotel quarantine should they be allowed to enter.

However, WA is set to relax its controversial hard border measures from February 5 and reunite Australia once again.