Australia reports 1st local Omicron transmission, variant found across Asia

(Updates CORONAVIRUS AUSTRALIA IM5006 to include more Australia cases, adds Malaysia and Singapore, changes slug, headline)

Bangkok Desk, Dec 3 (EFE).- Australia reported its first local transmission of the Omicron variant on Friday, while Malaysia and Singapore announced their first infections in overseas arrivals.

A student at Regents Park Christian School in western Sydney who had not been overseas and had no links to people who had traveled abroad tested positive for the variant, New South Wales Minister of Health Brad Hazzard told reporters Friday morning.

“It would appear that the case could well be an on-NSW-soil transmission,” he said.

On Friday afternoon, two other students from the same school were also confirmed to have the variant, with genome testing underway on another 10 cases, NSW Health said.

Australian Capital Territory health authorities also confirmed an Omicron infection on Friday afternoon in an individual who had “not traveled overseas.”

“The person is fully vaccinated and returned a positive test result on 1 December. Following genome sequencing, this has today been confirmed as the Omicron variant. It is not yet known if this case was acquired in the ACT or NSW,” ACT Health said in a statement.

On Monday, the Australian authorities delayed its partial border opening to students and foreign workers until Dec. 15 after detecting its first cases of the new variant in overseas arrivals.

Also on Friday, Malaysia announced the detection of its first case of Omicron in a foreign student who arrived from South Africa two weeks ago.

The Ministry of Health said that the affected person was asymptomatic, fully vaccinated and complied with home quarantine regulations.

“It’s important to note that this case came in to Malaysia on 19 November BEFORE South Africa reported the first detected [Omicron] case to @WHO,” Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin wrote on Twitter.

“After we found out about Omicron we went back to do genomic tests on all positive cases from KLIA between 11 and 28 November to see if it is already here. That’s how we detected the case,” he added.

Malaysia, which is still closed to tourists, has restricted entry to travelers who have visited seven southern African countries in the last two weeks.

Neighboring Singapore on Thursday night reported that two passengers on a flight from South Africa tested “preliminarily positive” for Omicron.

The two affected, who both tested negative before departure, are both fully vaccinated and have “mild symptoms of cough and scratchy throat,” are recovering in isolation rooms at the National Center for Infectious Diseases, the Singapore Health Ministry said.

The Omicron variant has now been reported in dozens of countries around the world, just over a week after it was reported to the World Health Organization by scientists in South Africa.

The United Nations agency said that Omicron has a high number of mutations, as well as a higher risk of reinfection, compared with other variants.

Researchers and scientists are currently working to know more about the new variant and the effectiveness of the available vaccines on it. EFE


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