New COVID-19 swab test suggests Omicron arrived in late November




Dr Chant said health authorities are “closely monitoring” the 31 cases of Omicron in the state, 11 of which are recent arrivals overseas. However, none of the cases were hospitalized.

The 20 locally acquired cases from NSW are all linked to transmission in two schools and a climbing gym in the Regents Park and Villawood areas, primarily among school-aged children.

“The numbers related to this cluster are expected to increase as further results are confirmed over the next few days,” said Dr Chant.

Several other confirmed cases of Omicron, including a woman from the central coast who had spent time in South Africa and a family from Chatswood who health officials said could have caught the virus on their flight from Doha, were in the community before they tested positive. However, no subsequent transmission of the variant has been reported.

ANU Infectious Disease Specialist Associate Professor Sanjaya Senanayake said it was “reassuring and somewhat surprising” that the cases of Omicron acquired locally in Sydney are all linked, given that others who have caught the variant abroad had been in the community while they were infectious.


However, he said it was too early to deduce much from the variant’s hospitalization rate.

“It wasn’t until around the tenth day of illness that they really ended up in hospital,” he said, noting that the Omicron infections in Australia were less than a fortnight old.

Looking at data from places overseas like South Africa, where Omicron was first discovered less than two weeks ago, Dr Senanayake said it was important to remember that the Australia has had a leading response to the pandemic, with high vaccination rates, along with other measures such as mask wear and QR code registrations to speed up contact tracing.

“It would be unusual for a virus to become less virulent … but we are now seeing cases in Western countries with high vaccination rates [like the UK and the Netherlands] we’re going to start getting good data, â€he said.

James Wood, a mathematician at the UNSW School of Public Health and Community Medicine, said recent data from South Africa raises concerns about the speed at which the variant spreads in a population with high levels. previous infection.


“In a few weeks it seems likely that South Africa will experience a large national epidemic in a country experiencing three large waves of infection. It seems that Omicron eludes our immune response to some extent and that raises concerns, â€he said.

However, Dr Wood said that despite an increase in hospital admissions in South Africa’s Gauteng province, deaths have not increased as quickly as they were in the initial stages of their Delta wave.

“We don’t know why. People infected with Delta may be immune and may not get as sick. Or it could be something different about the variant.

“There are concerns about transmissibility and if the R-value were to rise well above 1 we would see a rapid increase in cases. Even if the variant is much less severe, it will still put pressure on the health system. “

As of Tuesday, 260 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in New South Wales, including more than 200 in metropolitan Sydney. Two deaths have been reported.

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