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Australia confirms two cases of Omicron COVID-19 variant

Australia confirms two cases of Omicron COVID-19 variant

MELBOURNE, Nov. 28 (Reuters) – Australia confirmed on Sunday that two people who arrived from southern Africa over the weekend have tested positive for the variant Omicron coronavirus, contributing to a growing number of countries battling the virus. highly contagious strain.

Health officials in New South Wales, the most populous state, said both passengers had arrived in the state’s capital, Sydney, on Saturday evening and tested positive for COVID-19 late that night, before genome sequencing confirmed the Omicron variant on Sunday.

Australia joins Britain, Germany and Italy in tracking Omicron cases over the weekend as more countries imposed restrictions on travel from southern Africa.

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Both people were asymptomatic, fully vaccinated and in quarantine, NSW Health said. A further 12 passengers from southern Africa were also in hotel quarantine over 14 days, while about 260 other passengers and aircrew have been ordered to isolate.

“Close contacts will be regularly contacted and compliance checks will be carried out,” the health department said in a statement.

Australia imposed new limits on Saturday to people who have been to nine South African countries as the highly contagious strain raises concerns about a new wave of the pandemic.

The countries are South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique.

New Zealand announced new measures from Sunday evening.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said late Saturday that only New Zealand citizens will be allowed to enter the country from the nine South African countries.

Citizens should remain in managed isolation and be tested for 14 days, he said in a statement.

Australia eased its international border restrictions for the first time early this month during the pandemic, allowing fully vaccinated residents to return to the country without quarantine after higher vaccination levels.

Australia had largely wiped out the infections for most of this year, until an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta strain quickly spread eastward in late June. About 205,000 cases and 1,985 deaths have been recorded so far, less than many other countries in the developed world.

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Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Leslie Adler and William Mallard

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