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(AUSTRALIA) NSW Health Report: Confirmation two returned travellers have tested positive for the new #Omicron #COVID19 variant in Sydney, making them the first known cases of the strain the country #AceHealthDesk report

#AceHealthReport – Nov.29: NSW Health has confirmed two returned travellers have tested positive for the new #Omicron #COVID19 variant in Sydney, making them the first known cases of the strain in Australia.

#CoronavirusNewsDesk says the First Australian cases of #Omicron #COVID19 strain confirmed in Sydney travellers from southern Africa, NSW Health says after The World Health Organization (WHO) has deemed it a “variant of concern”

Update on Omicron on 28 November 2021

On 26 November 2021, WHO designated the variant B.1.1.529 a variant of concern, named Omicron, on the advice of WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE). This decision was based on the evidence presented to the TAG-VE that Omicron has several mutations that may have an impact on how it behaves, for example, on how easily it spreads or the severity of illness it causes. Here is a summary of what is currently known.

travellers at the airport holding onto a baggage trolley
International travellers arriving in Sydney are now subject to changed COVID rules to prevent the spread of Omicron.(ABC News)

The two positive cases are in isolation in the state’s Special Health Accommodation. 

Both people, who are fully vaccinated and were asymptomatic, arrived in Sydney from southern Africa on Saturday, November 27.

They are among 14 people who arrived on Qatar Airways QR908, Doha to Sydney, about 7pm.

The remaining 12 passengers from southern Africa are undertaking 14 days of hotel quarantine, also in the Special Health Accommodation.

NSW Health said about 260 passengers and air crew who were also on the flight are considered close contacts and have been directed to isolate for 14 days regardless of their test result. 

On Saturday, NSW Health changed its advice for international travellers returning to Sydney as a precaution to stem the spread of the new Omicron B.1.1.529 variant.

Anyone arriving in the state from the nine impacted southern African countries — South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, Malawi, and the Seychelles — is now required to go into hotel quarantine for 14 days. 

a sign at the airport
The two passengers arrived on Qatar Airways flight QR908 from Doha to Sydney on Saturday.(ABC News)

That is irrespective of their vaccine status and brings NSW in line with measures also announced by the federal government.

Travellers from other countries are now also required to immediately go to their place of residence or accommodation and isolate for 72 hours pending further health advice.

On Sunday, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said the pandemic wasn’t over and living with COVID-19 also meant learning to live with new strains.

“We need to learn to live alongside the virus. We also need to live alongside the various strains of the virus that will come our way,” Mr Perrottet said.

“But the best thing that we can do is to get vaccinated and get booster shoots.”

The variant that was first identified in South Africa has now been found in Hong Kong and suspected it may have arrived in Britain and Germany.

Dozens of countries including the United States and the United Kingdom have already closed their borders to the southern African nations. 

Scientists said it could take weeks to fully understand the variant’s mutations and whether existing vaccines and treatments would work against it.

It was a sentiment shared by NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard, who said the new variant was not well understood but the state government was working with other states and territories, and the federal government, to ascertain the risks.

“What we do know, if we look back at Delta, which was clearly a lot more infectious than its previous COVID incarnations, is that it only took three weeks for Delta to get across 53 nations,” Mr Hazzard said.Will Omicron spread like Delta?The emergence of a new variant of COVID-19 shows Africa needs greater access to vaccines, and there is more we can be doing at home too, experts say.Read more

“It’s going to be hard to ascertain just how many people are already here that may have been in those nine southern African nations in the last 14 days or so … What I would say to our community more broadly is that vaccinations really do make a difference.”

There were 185 new locally-acquired COVID-19 cases in NSW in the 24 hours to 8:00pm Saturday night and no deaths.

It’s the second day in a row no fatalities due to the virus were recorded.

There are 165 people currently in hospital with COVID-19 — 24 in intensive care and nine on ventilators.

Of those aged 16 and over, 92.4 per cent are fully vaccinated and 94.5 per cent have received at least one jab of a COVID-19 vaccine.

In the 12 to 15 age group, 81.3 per cent have received one dose and 76.5 per cent are fully vaccinated.

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