Queensland and Western Australia are monitoring developments with the Omicron variant of COVID, but have signalled no immediate moves to change plans to reopen.
Queensland’s stance came after a third possible Omicron case detected in NSW and another infection with the worrying new variant confirmed in the Northern Territory on Monday morning.
Deputy Premier Steven Miles said health experts were watching the emerging variant with an eye to whether current Queensland restrictions could be affected.
“Nothing has changed at this stage, but people should be assured that we will continue to take a cautious, well-prepared approach,” he said on Monday.
“Our officials are among the best in the world.
“They will monitor the situation very, very closely and they’ll provide advice to us.”
Queensland had no new local COVID cases on Monday. There were five cases in hotel quarantine after 6980 tests conducted in the previous 24 hours.
Under Queensland’s current plans, double-vaccinated interstate travellers will be able to visit without any quarantine requirements once its reaches 80 per cent fully vaccinated. That is expected about December 17.
In the west, Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan is also watching developments with the Omicron variant closely. He intends to announce a date for reopening to hotspot visitors after WA reaches the 80 per cent fully vaccinated mark – expected in early December, with reopening likely in early 2021.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen with Omicron,” he said on Monday.
“Omicron didn’t exist until three days ago, so let’s just watch and see what the World Health Organisation and what our health advisers say nationally.
He said he would have a clearer understanding of the risks and implications after Tuesday’s emergency national cabinet meeting of state and territory leaders.
Meanwhile, a repatriation flight traveller to the Northern Territory tested positive to the Omicron variant on Monday.
The man remains in quarantine at the Howard Springs quarantine facility. He arrived from South Africa on November 25.
NT Health Minister Natasha Fyles said the man arrived in Darwin on a repatriation flight from Johannesburg, and was taken directly to the quarantine facility.
Acting chief health officer Charles Pain said he was “not overly concerned” about the arrival of the Omicron variant in the NT.
“We’ve dealt with variants all the way through this and we’ve managed those in exactly the way we are doing now. So in many senses, it’s business as usual,” he said.
“We have a highly functioning quarantine facility there, we’ve had no breaches, [and] this individual – and the whole cohort of people because they were on a repatriation flight – is in quarantine.”
The Northern Territory also had two community COVID cases on Monday, taking the total number of infections in its latest outbreak to 58.
In NSW, Premier Dominic Perrottet doused the idea of a “knee-jerk reaction” and a return to lockdowns with the emerging variant in Australia, after two Omicron cases were confirmed in NSW on Sunday. A third suspected infection has been sent for genomic sequencing.
“We don’t need to have a knee-jerk reaction. We need to have a proportionate and balanced response to the situation that’s in front of us as our health officials obtain more information, both at a state and Commonwealth level,” he said.
“When there are new variants the response should not be, ‘Let’s shut down.'”
Elsewhere, Victorian health authorities have imposed 14-day quarantine orders on all close contacts of a person who visited the state after flying to Australia from a country with the Omicron COVID-19 variant.
The state recorded another 1007 new COVID-19 infections and three deaths on Monday.
In the chief health officer’s daily release, the health department confirmed they interviewed a person from NSW who had been to one of nine countries of concern and then visited Victoria.
That person has since returned to NSW and tested positive for COVID-19, with genomic sequencing underway to confirm whether they have the Omicron variant.
– with AAP