Victoria’s chief health officer has expressed concerns about the new Omicron variant as it officially hits Australian shores.
Victoria’s chief health officer has expressed concerns about the new Omicron variant as Australia officially announced its first two cases.
Addressing the media earlier on Sunday, professor Brett Sutton said that Omicron is likely an especially transmissible strain of Covid-19 that is potentially resistant to vaccines.
He said this is due to the rate at which it has spread across South Africa, adding that it has become the predominant variant in the country already.
“It is likely to be a very transmissible variant,” Mr Sutton said.
“But we will have greater clarity on that in coming days.”
All international arrivals into Victoria will now have to isolate and those who visited one of the nine African countries of concern will have to quarantine for a fortnight.
Professor Sutton says the measures will be reviewed in three days and may be extended if necessary
“We will have a much better understanding in terms of the global spread but also whether it’s here in Victoria and indeed some of those issues around severity and illness may become clearer even in the next couple of days,” he said.
Professor Sutton said the “big question” was whether there’s some “vaccine escape” or whether the immunity from vaccines given around the world is going to be sufficient to reduce the infection rate of Omicron.
“That isn’t known yet. It will probably take some weeks to find that out,” he said.
“What we do know about Omicron is not enough,” Mr Sutton added.
He reassured Australians that being fully vaccinated against Covid-19 would very likely provide some degree of protection against the Omicron variant, despite the unknown factors.
“We are not back at square one by any means,” he said.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said there has been no signs Omicron is a more dangerous disease in terms of impact of hospitalisation, serious illness or loss of life.
According to experts, current vaccines may well prove to be extremely effective against the variant and should still offer protection against serious infection and death.
The UN health agency said it could take several weeks to complete studies of the variant to see if there are any changes in transmissibility, tests and treatments.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, NSW Health confirmed two returned travellers from southern Africa tested positive to the new Covid variant in Sydney.
Both passengers arrived in Sydney from southern Africa on Saturday night.
The two positive cases, who were asymptomatic, were in isolation in the Special Health Accommodation — both were fully vaccinated.
The emergence of the new variant has led to dozens of countries closing their borders and placing restrictions on multiple southern African countries, with Australia last night closing its border entirely to several destinations.
Australian now joins Britain, Germany, South Africa, Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel will confirmed infections of Omicron.
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