News Coronavirus Victoria probes ‘likely’ Omicron COVID case

Victoria probes ‘likely’ Omicron COVID case

victoria omicron covid
The traveller's COVID test indicated it was likely they had the Omicron variant of the virus. Photo: Getty
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Victoria is investigating its first likely case of the Omicron variant of COVID.

State health authorities said genomic sequencing was underway into the test results of a traveller in hotel quarantine in Victoria who arrived from the Netherlands via Abu Dhabi on December 3.

“The individual has not been in the community while infectious,” they said in a statement on Tuesday.

If confirmed, it would be Victoria’s first case of the variant, which was first detected in southern Africa less than two weeks ago.

NSW has 31 Omicron cases, including 20 linked to a school and climbing gym in Sydney’s west and south-west. There are also five more in the ACT, one of which is linked to the Sydney gym, and one case in the Northern Territory.

Victorian health authorities said the traveller suspected of having the variant was fully vaccinated and the source of their COVID infection is under investigation. All other passengers on the Abu Dhabi flight are being assessed to ensure they have also been tested.

It came as Victoria reported 1185 more COVID cases on Tuesday and another seven fatalities. They included the deaths of two Indigenous Victorians the first virus-related deaths of First Nations people in the state.

State health authorities said a 68-year-old woman and 73-year-old man who were members of the Aboriginal community had died with the virus.

The infected woman’s cause of death was underlying conditions, while the man died from COVID-19 but also had other health conditions.

Their vaccination status was not disclosed.

“The Victorian government extends its sincere condolences to their families, loved ones and broader Aboriginal community at this difficult time,” the health department said.

“The Victorian government will continue to work in close partnership with the Aboriginal community-controlled sector to support Aboriginal communities during the pandemic.”

According to the latest federal data, as of December 1 every region across Victoria had double-dose vaccination rates between 77 per cent and 86.5 per cent among Indigenous residents aged 15 and over.

Those figures are much higher than the national average for Indigenous Australians, but lower than the broader statewide average at the time of 90.9 per cent for people 16 and over.

NSW Omicron spread

NSW Health is part of a global effort to better understand the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, as its cases increased to 31.

Genome sequencing on Monday identified an additional six Omicron cases in Sydney’s south-west, bringing the number of cases linked to the growing cluster to 20.

NSW Health is still investigating the source of infection of the cluster that emerged from the Sydney Indoor Climbing Gym in Villawood and spread to Regents Park Christian School and St Peter Chanel Catholic Primary School in Regents Park.

However, chief health officer Kerry Chant said the original source was believed to be a traveller who had been in Nigeria and arrived in Sydney from Doha on flight QR908 on November 23.

“It’s expected that the numbers linked to this cluster will rise as further results are confirmed over the coming days,” she said on Tuesday.

NSW Health is consulting widely in an effort to determine how contagious the new variant is and how it’s transmitted compared with other variants.

“We are working with our international counterparts to rapidly gain a better understanding about the nature of this new variant,” Dr Chant said.

“We are also working to understand the severity of the new variant and importantly how effective vaccines are at offering protections against severe disease.”

Also on Tuesday, chief medical officer Paul Kelly told a Senate inquiry examining the pandemic that none of the 37 Omicron infections detected in Australia so far had had a severe illness or been hospitalised, except for a seven-year-old from NSW who had been admitted for general observation.

“It’s clear this is not the last variant,” Professor Kelly told the Senate committee on Tuesday.

“At this stage, there are no definite signals anywhere in the world that Omicron is more severe than other variants that have preceded it, but we are watching closely.”

Professor Kelly said there would soon be a situation where constellations and stars would be used to name new variants once the Greek alphabet – the basis for the current naming system – was exhausted.

He indicated there was no evidence to suggest a specific vaccine was needed to deal with the Omicron variant.

-with AAP