Omicron variant confirmed in NSW arrivals

Genomic testing has confirmed two overseas travellers who arrived in Sydney from southern Africa have been infected with the new Omicron COVID-19 variant.

Both passengers were asymptomatic when they arrived on Saturday night and are in isolation in the Special Health Accommodation. Both are fully vaccinated.

They were among 14 people from nine southern African countries who arrived on Qatar Airways QR908, Doha to Sydney, with the remaining 12 undertaking 14 days of hotel quarantine.

About 260 passengers and air crew on the flight are considered close contacts and have also been directed to isolate. 

Some 29 people who had been in one of the nine countries subject to elevated restrictions touched down in Sydney across two flights on Saturday evening.

They have all been sent to hotel quarantine.

NSW Police Minister David Elliott said he had met with Premier Dominic Perrottet and Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Sunday to plot a path forward.

‘I’m not panicking at the moment because it appears that this is going to be the new normal,” he told Sydney radio 2GB on Monday.

“We need to prepare and … make sure that we’re flexible and agile when it comes to variations and we need to be defensive and that defensive mechanism of course is the vaccination,” he said.

The premier said on Sunday it was a reminder the pandemic was not over, and cautioned the variant would spread throughout the world.

“We need to learn to live alongside the virus. We need to learn to live alongside the variants of the virus,” he said.

Although he has ordered all international arrivals to quarantine at home for 72 hours, Mr Perrottet insisted the NSW international and state borders would remain open.

“We can’t be a hermit kingdom on the other side of the world,” he said.

“There’s only so much governments can do. The best thing we can do as a people is to get vaccinated, get a booster shot, and that will keep you and your family safe.” 

The three-day quarantine order is on top of a federal government requirement for travellers to enter quarantine for two weeks if they have been in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, Malawi or the Seychelles in the past 14 days.

Mr Perrottet said there were no plans to adjust the state’s reopening roadmap, so restrictions would still ease for the unvaccinated on December 15.

Meanwhile, the state added 185 new infections to its caseload on Sunday.

For the fourth consecutive day, no new deaths were reported.

Hospitals are treating 165 patients, nine fewer than the previous day. Twenty-four are in intensive care, 21 of whom are unvaccinated, with nine ventilated.

NSW is 94.5 per cent single-dosed for everyone 16 and over, while 92.4 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Of 12- to 15-year-olds, 81.3 per cent have received one jab and 76.5 per cent both.


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