Australia detects first COVID Omicron infections

Australia detects first COVID Omicron infections

NSW Health has confirmed two returned travellers have tested positive for the new Omicron COVID-19 variant in Sydney, making them the first known cases of the strain in Australia.

Health authorities of New South Wales said on Sunday urgent genomic testing had been conducted and confirmed the new strain was present in the two people, who landed in Sydney on Saturday.

Both people, who are fully vaccinated and were asymptomatic, arrived in Sydney from southern Africa on Saturday, November 27. The two passengers were among 14 people from southern Africa who arrived on Qatar Airways QR908 flight, Doha to Sydney, which touched down about 7pm on Saturday.

Around 260 passengers and aircrew on the flight are considered close contacts and have been directed to isolate. 

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.

The variant that was first identified in South Africa has now been found in Hong Kong and suspected it may have arrived in Britain and Germany.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has deemed it a "variant of concern".

Many countries including Australia,  United States and the United Kingdom have already closed their borders to the southern African nations.