Australia confirms community transmission of Covid’s Omicron variant

New South Wales health authorities reported that five persons in Sydney, Australia’s largest city, got infected with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus without travelling to foreign countries or coming in contact of any of them.

According to NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant, the locally transmitted cases are related to two schools and a climbing gym in Sydney’s western suburbs, which may also be the cause of a confirmed omicron infection in the Australian Capital Territory.

In a video update, she stated that urgent genomic testing is underway for a number of other cases, linked to the venues and that results should be available in the coming days.

According to Chant, the state of New South Wales has confirmed 15 omicron infections, with more likely to follow. Infected passengers on a trip from Doha who had been in southern Africa seeded the outbreak.

The omicron variation of Covid-19, which was first discovered in South Africa, has been found in places ranging from the United States to South Korea, highlighting the difficulty of containing contagious new strains. Researchers around the world are scrambling to grasp the full impact of the new strain, and governments have issued travel bans to South Africa and neighbouring nations, fearing that omicron could defy vaccine protection and cause fresh outbreaks.

Due to omicron fears, the state of South Australia raised restrictions for overseas tourists on Saturday, requiring all arrivals, not just those from southern Africa, to quarantine for 14 days. Travelers from Australia’s south-eastern states will be required to test upon arrival and isolate themselves until a negative result is returned, according to state Premier Steven Marshall.

South Australian authorities are “extraordinarily concerned” about the outbreak in Sydney and the case in the ACT, but Marshall told reporters Saturday that the state’s border will remain open for the time being. “At this point, we don’t know enough about the omicron variant,” he said during a meeting with officials to discuss the border closure.

He stated that Omicron is “here in Australia.” “It’s contained for the time being, but we could learn in the next days that it’s no longer contained.”

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