First two cases of Omicron COVID variant detected in Sydney

The omicron variant of the coronavirus which is considered highly infectious and capable of sustaining frequent mutations now detected in Australia, the health authorities said on Sunday.

In a statement, the Eastern State of New South Wales Health Authority said that two passengers who arrived in Sydney from South Africa tested positive for Covid-19. The results of an urgent genomic test showed that they had the presence of Omicron, which has already been classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a ‘variant of concern’.

Both of these passengers arrived on November 27 (Saturday) from South Africa to Sydney, the statement said, adding that they had been tested on arrival and tested positive for Covid-19 late at night.

Travellers who tested positive for the Omicron variant were asymptomatic and fully vaccinated. They are currently being isolated and provided with special health accommodation, the Federal Health Department added.

These two passengers were among the 14 people from South Africa who arrived on Saturday evening on the Doha-Sydney Qatar Airways flight. After two of them tested positive for Covid-19, the other 12 to 14-day hotel quarantines were sent to special health accommodation.

In addition, the statement added that about 260 other passengers and crew onboard the flight, who are seen as “close contacts” by these passengers, were also asked to isolate.

On the other side of the world, Europe has also identified cases of the Omicron variant across the continent, with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposing new measures to disrupt its spread. Countries across Europe are tightening their own travel restrictions as suspected Omicron cases quickly arise. As of Saturday, Switzerland has required passengers arriving from the UK to show proof of vaccination and negative Covid-19 tests on arrival.

From December 1, Spain will also only start vaccinating travellers coming out of the country.

Austria also records its first suspicious case of a person infected with the Omicron variant of the virus. On the border with Germany, authorities in Tyrol said the fully vaccinated patient had returned from South Africa three days ago and had no symptoms.

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