Omicron: Australia confirms two cases of new variant in New South Wales state

Another 12 passengers arriving from southern Africa sent to 14-day hotel quarantine

Maroosha Muzaffar
Sunday 28 November 2021 08:41
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<p>File: A passenger makes their way towards the departure lounge following check-in at Sydney's International Airport on 1 November 2021</p>

File: A passenger makes their way towards the departure lounge following check-in at Sydney's International Airport on 1 November 2021

Two cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in Australia’s New South Wales, the country’s most populous state.

The state’s health department in a statement on Sunday said two passengers arriving from southern Africa over the weekend had tested positive for the new variant of the novel coronavirus, that causes the Covid-19 disease.

Health officials said both passengers had travelled to Sydney from southern Africa on Saturday.

Both were tested on the evening of the same day, after which results late at night showed both were positive, said officials.

The health officials said both the passengers are fully vaccinated and are asymptomatic. They have been put in isolation at a special health accommodation, according to the statement issued by NSW government.

The two were on board Qatar Airways flight QR908 from Doha that had landed in Sydney Airport on 7pm (local time) on Saturday. The two were among 14 passengers who were coming from southern Africa.

The other 12 passengers were sent for a 14-day hotel quarantine, while around 260 other passengers and crew, considered close contacts, have been directed by health officials to isolate.

“It is an offence not to comply with a Public Health Order and penalties can apply. Close contacts will be contacted regularly, and compliance checks will be undertaken,” the NSW government said in its statement.

The NSW government’s statement also said that “all travellers who have been in any other overseas country during the 14-day period before their arrival in NSW must travel directly to their place of residence or accommodation and isolate for 72 hours, pending further health advice.”

It further said that “all flight crew who have been overseas during the 14-day period before their arrival in NSW must travel directly to their place of residence or accommodation and isolate for 14 days or until their departure on another flight that leaves Australia, consistent with the current rules for the unvaccinated flight crew.”

The cases of the new variant have come just hours after Greg Hunt, Australia’s federal health minister, announced a two-week ban on non-citizens arriving from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique.

Australia now joins an increasing number of countries, including the UK, Germany and Italy, in having detected the new Omicron coronavirus variant over the weekend.

Several countries have restricted or banned travel from southern Africa and neighbouring countries.

Thailand and Sri Lanka have banned arrivals from a number of African countries.

New Zealand’s Covid response minister Chris Hipkins said only New Zealand citizens will be allowed to travel into the country from the nine southern African nations.

He said in a statement that citizens will be required to stay isolated for two weeks and undergo regular testing.

The World Health Organisation said on Friday that the variant is believed to be more infectious than all previous strains and labeled it as a variant of concern.

Australia has reported about 205,000 Covid cases and 1,985 deaths from the disease.

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