Third COVID-19 Omicron variant detected in Australia

The third case of new coronavirus strain Omicron has been detected in a traveller who arrived in the Northern Territory.

Health authorities announced on Monday genomic sequencing confirmed a man who travelled from South Africa tested positive for the new variant.

The man, aged in his 30s, is in quarantine at the Howard Springs Facility.

He arrived in the NT on a repatriation flight

“I’m not overly concerned (about the case),” Chief Health Officer Dr Charles Pain said.

“We’ve dealt with variants all the way through this and we’ve managed those in exactly the way we’re doing now

“In many senses, it’s business as usual.

“This individual, and the whole cohort of people (on the flight) … are in quarantine and I expect that to run as normal.”

Dr Pain added more cases of the new variant were possible.

The case is the first Omicron case in the NT and the third in the country after two other cases were detected in NSW.

Another two cases are under investigation in NSW.

Locally, the NT recorded two new cases of COVID, taking the current cluster to 58.

The Omicron variant, which has been named a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organisation (WHO), may be more transmissible than existing strains of the virus.

But Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly stressed there was no definite evidence the variant was resistant to vaccines.

“The information from South Africa is that it has replaced Delta as the major, possibly the only, virus circulating in that country, quite quickly. So is it transmitting at least as well as Delta? That seems clear,” he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier on Monday urged people to remain calm.

“There’s no evidence to suggest that this leads to any more severe disease,” he told the Nine Network.

“If anything, it’s suggesting a lesser form of disease, particularly for those who are vaccinated.

“Case numbers of themselves are not the issue. It’s about whether people are getting a worse illness or it’s going to put stress on your hospital system.”

In response to the new variant, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation has been asked to review the time frame for booster shots, which are currently recommended six months after a second dose.

A National Cabinet meeting made up of federal, state and territory leaders is also expected to be convened on either Monday or Tuesday to consider Australia’s response.

Victoria, NSW and the ACT have already introduced a blanket 72-hour quarantine requirement for all international travellers.