Australia threw out an invitation to backpackers on Wednesday, seeking reinforcements for a workforce crippled by an Omicron Covid-19 outbreak as the country’s health system creaks under the pandemic’s strain with more deaths predicted in weeks ahead.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government was waiving the A$630 ($453) visa application fee for any backpacker or student who arrives in Australia within the next 12 weeks, and encouraged them to seek work as they tour the country.
“Come on down now because you wanted to come to Australia,” Morrison said during a televised press conference.
“Move all the way around the country, and the same time join our workforce and help us in our agricultural sector, in our hospitality sector, and so many of the other parts of the economy that rely on that labour.”
The call for backpackers comes as Morrison faces criticism at the beginning of an election year over his handling of an outbreak of the Omicron Covid-19 variant that has seen record numbers of new infections and deaths.
Officials reported 67 new deaths and nearly 80,000 new cases by midday on Wednesday, with Western Australia to report daily figures.
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard