Australia has seen two new cases of Omicron, a super-mutant Covid variety Omicron. These were found in Australia following its arrival from Africa.

NSW Health confirmed on Sunday urgent genomic testing found the two travellers who touched down in Sydney on Saturday night have the new strain.  

According to the report, they were subjected to testing upon arrival. They had also been positive for Covid in the late hours of last night.

The special health accommodation is for the two positive patients who had not been asymptomatic. Both are fully vaccinated. 

Two overseas travellers who arrived in Sydney on Saturday night have been confirmed to have the new super-mutant Covid strain, Omicron

On Saturday, two overseas travelers arrived in Sydney with the super-mutant Covid strain Omicron. 

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet confirmed 29 people arrived on Saturday aboard two flights from the nine African nations feared to be infested with the variant. Pictured: A family hugs as they reunite at Sydney International Airport on November 28

Dominic Perrottet (NSW Premier) confirmed the arrival of 29 passengers on Saturday in two flights from Africa, where the variant is feared to have spread. Pictured: The family embraces as they meet up at Sydney International Airport in November 28th 

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet confirmed 29 people, including the two confirmed Omicron cases, arrived on Saturday aboard two flights from the nine African nations feared to be infested with the variant. 

Perrotet stated that the strain can be controlled and the timeline for lifting the restrictions on vaccination at 95% or December 15 by the state was in place.

Two other passengers who tested positive to Covid after arriving from southern Africa, one in Sydney and another at the Howard Springs facility near Darwin, are being screened to see if they also have the Omicron variant.

Victoria’s health officials are investigating whether any third NSW Omicron cases could have been contracted by anyone on their trip to Victoria.

Temporarily, Mr Perrottet and his Victorian counterpart Daniel Andrews and ACT Premier Andrew Barr reimposed a 72 hour self-isolation rule for international arrivals.

Government sources told The Age the Victorian Government was considering extending quarantine and reintroducing mask mandates in some settings. 

Sources said that new health orders may be issued as soon as Monday. They are likely to also be introduced by leaders of state and territories across the country.

Omicron variant

The World Health Organization declared Omicron a ‘variant of concern’ quicker than it did with other variants

Omicron highlights the need to boost vaccination in poorer parts of the world such as Africa

Experts say mask wearing, social distancing and better ventilation will help prevent all variants of Covid-19, including Omicron

NSW Jobs Minister Stuart Ayres announced on Sunday the state government was prepared to clamp down on travellers arriving from overseas.

‘We will take the necessary measures, including restarting quarantine if required, to protect our community and our economy,’ he told the Sydney Morning Herald. 

A government source said work was underway to restore hotel quarantine if required, but the preferred option will be home isolation unless the strain was deemed extremely severe.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison also banned all flights from the nine African countries and passengers on any that already took off would be forced into hotel quarantine.

However, University of NSW epidemiology professor Mary-Louise McLaws said this was not enough and advocated a return to ‘Fortress Australia’ immediately.

‘Omicron still not fully understood. Is transmission faster, does it reduce vaccine efficacy, is it as hard to mitigate outbreaks [like] Delta?’ she tweeted on Sunday.

‘Until +90% vaccination coverage of total pop (not just +12yr) quarantine must be supervised for every traveller from every country. [With] testing on day-1, 4, 5.’   

Dr Paul Griffin, Director of Infectious Diseases at Mater Health in Brisbane, was far less concerned and said it was still too early to judge the risks of Omicron.

University of NSW epidemiology professor Mary-Louise McLaws has called for all international arrivals to be subjected to strict quarantine rules. Pictured: A nurse prepares a Covid test at the pre-departure area at Sydney airport on November 28

University of NSW epidemiology professor Mary-Louise McLaws has called for all international arrivals to be subjected to strict quarantine rules. Pictured: A nurse prepares a Covid test at the pre-departure area at Sydney airport on November 28 

‘I don’t think we’re back to square one. A lot of us thought this is what this virus is going to keep doing, going to keep evolving and we are going to keep finding new variants,’ he told ABC. 

Similar sentiments were echoed by Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton, who conceded that it was ‘impossible’ to keep the strain off Australian shores but measures were already in place to reduce its spread. 

Professor Sutton said he was ‘very confident’ vaccines would provide some level of ‘cross protection’ for the new variant, even if Omicron differs significantly in terms of ‘how our immune system recognises it’.

‘This is not back to the beginning,’ he said. 

‘We are not back at square one by any means. The vaccination coverage that we’ve got – over 90 per cent of eligible Victorians being fully vaccinated already – is absolutely more than useful. 

‘It is absolutely critical in protecting them and will, I’m sure, provide protection against these variants as well. We just need to understand how much.’ 

Professor Sutton said ‘not really enough’ is known about Omicron but it seemed likely it would become the new dominant variant of Covid. 

‘It certainly seems to have spread very quickly in southern Africa, and in the republic of South Africa in particular across many, many provinces and numbers have increased very significantly over a short period of time,’ he said.

‘We just need the time to be clear about whether this virus is in this country already, and the extent to which it has spread globally.

Mr Perrotet said the strain could be contained and the state's timeline of lifting restrictions at 95 per cent vaccination or on December 15 was on track

Mr Perrotet said the strain could be contained and the state’s timeline of lifting restrictions at 95 per cent vaccination or on December 15 was on track

Scott Morrison (pictured) says he 'fully supports' the move by NSW, Victoria and the ACT to make all overseas arrivals go into isolation as authorities scramble to contain the threat posed by the Omicron strain of Covid-19 .

Scott Morrison (pictured) says he ‘fully supports’ the move by NSW, Victoria and the ACT to make all overseas arrivals go into isolation as authorities scramble to contain the threat posed by the Omicron strain of Covid-19 .

‘It’s going to be impossible to keep out, I imagine. If it’s more transmissible than Delta, then it will become the global variant for sure.’

Despite Professor Sutton’s assurance, fatigued Victorians who are fresh out of Covid lockdown are already bracing for reinstated restrictions that may be cast over the state to tackle the new variant. 

Rhonda Andrews, chief executive of the corporate and private psychology service the Barrington Centre, said the company’s 320 psychologists were being bombarded with calls as anxiety heightens over the unfolding situation despite general optimism around reopening. 

‘We’re going to get people who are going to feel like that optimism has just been shattered and they feel like, “Here we go again”,’ she told The Age.

Ms Andrews said the latest health threat was likely to cause a state called ‘cumulative distress’. 

‘What happens when people get into that mood or mindset is that they go back to what they’ve experienced since March 2020. It’s not just as if they are dealing with the new variant, they actually relive what they’ve lived in the past 20 months,’ she said. 

The two infected passengers were on Qatar Airways QR908, via Doha, which touched down around 7pm. Twelve other passengers on the same flight who travelled from southern Africa are undertaking 14 days of hotel quarantine. 

As well as the two arrivals in Sydney, another two African arrivals have also tested positive for Covid in different states and the same testing will be done on their samples to identify the strains.   

The first arrived in NSW on November 23 before travelling to Victoria two days later, sparking fears Omicron is already in the southern state. 

Victorian health officials will complete a full interview with this case tonight to track down any close contacts in the event the passenger does have the Version Omicron. 

The second, a man, arrived on a repatriation flight from South Africa to the Northern Territory on Thursday and was in isolation at the Howard Springs quarantine facility. 

Passengers undergo COVID-19 tests at the Histopath Diagnostic Specialists pre-departure area at Sydney International Airport on November 28, 2021

COVID-19 screenings are performed on passengers by Histopath Diagnostic Specialists at Sydney International Airport, November 28th 2021 

In light of this emerging threat to health, Queensland officials stated that they could not guarantee the state’s borders would be reopened once 80% of its population has been vaccinated. 

Peter Aitken, acting chief health officer, stated that officials are monitoring the situation. Incoming visitors from interstate hotspots may need to be quarantined.

‘We’ll make that decision when there’s evidence available that needs a change in position. But at this stage there’s no evidence available to support a change in position,’ he said. 

Queensland currently has 10 quarantines for people who are from southern African countries.  

Perrotet explained that although the new version was a reminder of the fact that the pandemic is not over, it was still necessary to reopen Australia.

He said, “We must learn to live alongside the virus and all the strains that will come our way,”

Premier said that the government’s main focus would be on ensuring vaccination continues, since this would fight the new variant.

He said, “This has been the main success here in NSW. That is key to ensuring we open up as safely as possible and that’s the focus for the government.”

“We require everyone in NSW to get their booster shots, and make sure people in NSW stay safe.” 

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said it only took the Delta variant three weeks to reach 53 nations, and the effectiveness of Omicron against vaccines was still being established. 

Representatives from drug companies said that it will take approximately 100 days to create an updated Omicron vaccine, depending on the need.  

Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said he was 'very confident' current vaccines would provide some level of 'cross protection' for the new variant

Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said he was ‘very confident’ current vaccines would provide some level of ‘cross protection’ for the new variant 

Omicron, if it proves to be even more transmittable than Delta as some fear, could potentially become the most contagious measles disease, according experts. 

Tony Cunningham, virologist at Sydney University, told AFR that what we have always worried about is the possibility of a new mutant. This can be more spread than delta and may also possess beta’s immune evasive features.  

Omicron has been deemed a variant of Concern’ by the World Health Organisation. There are more than 30 mutations within the spike protein. Professor Cunningham described the surprising changes as “variant”

“It gives up the earlier thoughts we had about this virus not being a very mutating one. If it’s more spreadable than Delta, it’s approaching the second-most spreadable virus that we have, which is chicken pox. Measles is number one. “Delta was number three,” he stated.

“But Omicron wins delta, then this is an issue for the whole world.”

Professor Cunningham indicated that while the Omicron vaccines are still effective in part, the immunity duration could be reduced. However, studies to examine how Omicron reacts to those antibodies are ongoing.  

Morrison stated that he supports the NSW, Victoria, and ACT’s move to isolate all foreign arrivals as authorities battle to stop the Omicron threat. 

Passengers disembark off a Qantas flight after landing at Sydney Airport. Three arrivals to Australia on flights from Africa have tested positive for Covid, prompting urgent analysis of their samples amid fears they could be carrying the Omicron strain.

After landing at Sydney Airport, passengers board a Qantas plane to disembark. Three African arrivals arriving in Australia via flights to Africa tested positive for Covid. It was urgently examined because of fears they may be carrying Omicron.

He said that “the very serious issues concerning the new variant” were being addressed quickly.  

“We took decisive action yesterday. I met with premier in NSW, Victoria, and fully supported their actions.

It is an urgent issue, but we will keep our eyes open for the best medical evidence.

“This is why Australia has been so successful in the Covid.” [pandemic]To remain safe.

As Australia’s best defense against Covid, the prime minister encouraged people to be vaccinated. 

He said, “I encourage you to get it, and if your first dose of vaccine has been completed and your six-month period is over, I would recommend that you go for your booster shots.” 

It is important that Australia has booster shots in order to be able to respond to these kinds of problems. It is different now than it was in February, March, and 2020.

Morrison claimed that Covid was a good topic for the government. 

“The uncertainty is not as great as it used to be.” We have good systems which have been proven which is demonstrated by one of the lowest fatality rates, strongest economies and highest vaccination rate in the world,’ he said. 

He claimed that both the Australian people’s and government had worked to “open safely and remain open”.

US and Europe earlier placed six countries on the red list before Australia added another three - Malawi, Mozambique and Seychelles

US and Europe had previously placed six countries on their red list, before Australia included three additional: Malawi, Mozambique, and Seychelles

On Sunday morning in NSW, 185 Covid-19 cases were added. Victoria had 1,061 additional cases and 4 deaths.  

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government would not hesitate if more needed to be done to combat the Omicron strain. 

He said that “Overnight international evidence arrived and we took immediate measures yesterday, and will continue doing so to protect Australians,”.

“Yesterday there were more than 3,800 people who came to Australia…54 were from South Africa. 

“They were there, identified within the past 14 days in nine countries. We are happy to report that the Border Force has implemented all orders yesterday, taken actions, and Border Force is in state and territory. Public health support is also being provided.”

According to Natasha Fyles, NT Health Minister Natasha Fyles, Northern Territory authorities have not yet performed genomic sequencing of the passenger’s infect strain.

She said that the individual has been in supervised isolation at the Howard Springs national facility south of Darwin since her arrival.

“So, there’s a low risk for the community. We wish this person well,” Ms Fyles stated.

Charles Pain, NT chief of Health says he anticipates that the sequencing results from the South African case will be available by Monday.

He arrived on Thursday in Darwin, and the positive result of his virus test was confirmed Friday night. 

At midnight Saturday, the new quarantine restrictions went into effect. All international passengers arriving in these three countries – even fully vaccinated passengers- must be tested upon landing.   

The nine African nations from which entries to Australia have been banned are: South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Seychelles and Malawi.

Dr Griffin from Mater Health, Brisbane said, “The way that we have managed this virus so effectively so far will still be effective, and will still benefit us. 

Omicron is protected from Omicron by using masks, social isolation, and ventilation.

“The important point is that it’s still unknown what the variant’s properties are. This means it has many concerning mutations. However, now it’s time to find out how infectious this one is. 

He said, “Its potential to evade vaccines and all that hasn’t been determined yet. So he we only need to know that information now.” 

Australian citizens who are from these countries have the right to return but they must remain in quarantine until 14 days. 

Only four weeks have passed since Victoria and NSW lifted hotel quarantine regulations for fully-vaccinated travellers.

On November 12, the ACT lifted hotel quarantine to allow overseas visitors into hotels. 

According to the Victorian health department, the new rules will be applicable to children younger than 12 years old and unaccompanied minors. 

All cabin crews arriving by air from other countries into NSW, will need to be separated for 14 days before they can depart.

Victoria’s rules differ slightly from the rest of Africa. If they were to be in one of nine countries of concern, vaccinated crew members will need to be kept away for 14 days.  

Between Saturday evening and Sunday night (8pm) NSW had 185 Covid cases. 94.5 percent of 16-year-olds received one dose of Covid vaccine, while 92.4 percent were fully vaccinated. 

Victoria saw 1,061 cases of new infections and 4 deaths. Ninety percent of people aged twelve and older are fully vaccinated. 

Mark McGowan (West Australian Premier) closed the borders of his state to South Australia Saturday evening in an attempt to keep out this mutant new strain.  

The ruling means only vaccinated South Australians can enter WA, where they must immediately go into quarantine for 14 days. 

South Australia has tightened its border controls following the Omicron version’s emergence.

Quarantine will again be necessary for all international travelers and those arriving from Australia’s highest-risk regions.

Paul Kelly, chief medical officer, said that authorities are also working to track down approximately 100 Australians who have recently arrived in Australia from blacklisted countries. They will then need to be placed into quarantine for two more weeks.  

Professor Kelly said it was not yet clear if Australia would go into lockdown again if the virus spreads across the Indian Ocean.

“In terms of ruling out or in, and any other actions we may take, as the minister for health has stated clearly, we will do whatever we have to,” he declared on Saturday.

“At the moment, we are moving toward speculation as to where we might end-up in Australia. Even if we have it there yet, that would be premature. 

According to him, Omicron was not as well-known as other types of concerns. 

“We don’t have any indications that the condition is worse or more serious, nor do we know if there are any issues with vaccines.” 

Kelly stated that the information available about the variant at present was not sufficient to allow for long-term decision making. 

According to the White House, President Joe Biden has been briefed about Omicron. There are growing fears over Omicron. The top US health expert Dr Anthony Fauci stated that the president ‘wouldn’t be surprised’ if Omicron was already present in the US.

Biden is being criticized for not allowing South Africa flights to land in the US. However, senior officials in health and members of the Covid response group, Dr Fauci included, are reportedly keeping tabs on Omicron’s latest developments and in constant contact with international health officials. 

We know a lot about Omicron. 

Scientists are worried about the B.1.1.529 variation, which is called Omicron by the World Health Organisation, because it contains around 30 mutations, double that of the Delta variant. 

These mutations include features found in all variants, but they also contain traits not seen previously. 

Scientists in the UK first discovered this new strain after samples from South Africa, Hong Kong, and Botswana were posted to an online coronavirus tracking site.  

It was revealed that there were cases identified in Israel, Belgium and the United Kingdom on Friday. However, no cases are currently known in the UK.

Good Morning Britain was told Friday by Professor Adam Finn (a member of Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) that sequencing is currently being done in the UK to find out if any cases were imported. 

It is still being investigated whether this new variant could cause new infection among people who have received a coronavirus vaccination or another vaccine. Or if waning immunity might be involved.  

Director of the Rosalind Foundation Institute, Professor James Naismith has indicated that although the vaccines will still be effective and provide protection, the new variant will almost certainly reduce their effectiveness.

Pfizer/BioNTech has already developed a vaccine to combat Covid-19 and is currently studying whether the new variant can evade vaccinations.