Australia urgently tests arrivals as COVID-19 detected amid Omicron concerns
MELBOURNE — Australia’s most populous state was urgently testing people entering the country on Sunday, after two arrivals from southern Africa tested positive for COVID-19, as some countries have detected the new Omicron variant.
Australia imposed new restrictions on Saturday on people who have been to nine southern African countries, as the highly infectious Omicron variant raises concerns about another wave of the pandemic.
Britain, Germany and Italy detected Omicron cases on Saturday as more nations imposed restrictions on travel from southern Africa.
“Urgent genomic sequencing is underway to determine if they have been infected by the new Omicron … variant of concern,” the health department of New South Wales said in a release.
The passengers arrived in Sydney, the state’s capital, on Saturday evening and were transported to a hotel for 14 days of quarantine.
Other passengers on the flight may be considered close contacts and will need to get tested immediately and isolate for 14 days, and compliance checks will be undertaken, the state health department said.
New Zealand announced fresh measures from Sunday evening, Radio New Zealand reported.
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said late on Saturday that only New Zealand citizens will be allowed to travel into the country from the nine southern African nations, according to the news service.
Citizens would be required to stay in managed isolation for a full 14 days, as well as undergo testing, he was quoted as saying.
Australia early this month eased its international border restrictions for the first time during the pandemic, allowing fully vaccinated residents to return to the country without quarantine after higher vaccination levels.
Australia had largely stamped out infections for most of this year until an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant in late June spread rapidly across its east. About 205,000 cases and 1,985 deaths have been recorded so far, lower than many other countries in the developed world.
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