Health authorities have issued a fresh alert about another person infected with the Omicron variant after earlier saying a child was infectious.
Welcome to our live coverage of Australia’s Covid-19 situation.
Australia now has nine confirmed cases of the Omicron variant, including eight infections in NSW and one in the Northern Territory.
The latest is a case that arrived on a flight from Doha to Sydney on November 23.
Authorities identified the patient was infected with the new variant as part of ongoing genomic sequencing into the confirmed Covid cases in returned travellers.
Read on for the latest updates on the Omicron situation. You can find yesterday’s blog here.
Eighth Omicron case confirmed in NSW
NSW Health has confirmed a traveller has tested positive for the Omicron COVID-19 variant of concern, bringing the total number of cases to eight in NSW.
The person arrived on flight SQ231 from Singapore which arrived in Sydney on Sunday 28 November.
They are fully vaccinated and had recently been in southern Africa.
The person has been in hotel quarantine since arriving, as required under the NSW public health order.
Omicron case a child in NSW
A new Omicron case has been confirmed as a child in NSW who was too young to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
NSW Health confirmed the child has been staying with their parents at the Mantra apartments in Chatswood, on Sydney’s lower north shore.
The child’s parents are fully vaccinated and have both been infected with Covid-19.
The family arrived on flight QR908 from Doha to Sydney on 23 November and is now isolating in special health accommodation with their family.
Two other members of their household are also confirmed cases of Covid and urgent testing is underway to confirm if they are also infected with the Omicron variant.
“These travellers have not been in southern Africa and NSW Health is concerned transmission may have occurred on this flight,” NSW Health said in a statement.
Anyone who was on QR908 from Doha to Sydney on November 23 must immediately get tested for Covid and isolate while waiting for further health advice.
“NSW Health will contact all passengers and flight crew to advise them of their isolation requirements. They can also call NSW Health on 1800 943 553 for further advice,” NSW Health said.
The new Omicron case also visited a venue in Chatswood, sparking a full seven-day alert.
Anyone who visited the below venue at the times listed is a casual contact and must immediately get tested and isolate until a negative result is received.
Mantra Serviced Apartments, Chatswood, from November 23 to November 30, all day.
This brings the total number of Omicron cases in NSW to seven and the number nationally to eight.
SA changes NSW border restrictions
South Australia has changes the border restrictions for those coming from NSW, as cases of the Omicron variant rise.
“Effective later this afternoon we will be putting further requirements for people coming from NSW to have a test on arrival. This is another way that we will be protecting ourselves,” SA Premier Steven Marshal said.
“What I can say is we’ll be monitoring the situation, particularly in NSW, extraordinarily carefully. We have been looking at it on a daily basis.”
SA records 18 new Covid cases
South Australia has recorded a significant rise in Covid-19 cases, with 18 new infections reported in the past 24 hours.
Of those cases, 16 are linked to an event that recently took place in Adeliade, with health officials branding the outbreak the Norwood cluster.
The other two cases are from interstate travellers.
“All of those cases will have quite a number of people that will have been close contacts. So there is a lot of work for our team to do in terms of interviewing all of those cases and getting all of the close contacts,” SA chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said.
It is understood the event was attended by around 50 people.
As of 9am this morning, there were 210 close contacts in quarantine, with that number likely to increase.
She said it was “absolutely vital” for people to go out and get tested, even if they have the mildest of symptoms.
29 cases linked to Melbourne protests
There are now 29 Covid cases linked to the mass protests in Melbourne’s CBD last month, with those infected ranging from 14 to 73 years old.
Only one case was fully vaccinated at the time of testing positive, three cases had received one jab and 25 cases were unvaccinated.
Two unvaccinated protesters have been admitted to hospital.
Victoria’s public health investigators said 11 cases attended the protests while infectious and 16 cases are deemed to have possibly acquired Covid during the protests.
– Chantelle Francis
Gold Coast back on high alert after new case
Queensland’s Gold Coast is back on high alert after a locally acquired Covid case was detected in the area, after being out in the community for three days.
The new case, a fully vaccinated man, was reported on Wednesday afternoon but was included in Thursday’s official Covid figures.
The man visited Robina Town Centre during Black Friday sales on November 26.
Anyone who attended the following venues at the times listed is a casual contact and must immediately get tested and quarantine until they receive a negative result.
• Rebel Sport at Robina Town Centre on November 26 between 1.40pm-2.05pm
• Target at Robina Town Centre on November 26 between 2.05pm-2.30pm
• JB HI-FI at Robina Town Centre on November 26 between 2pm-2.20pm
• Old Fernvale Bakery, Fernvale, on November 27 between 3.30pm-4.05pm
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told parliament on Thursday it is “unlikely” the man has the new Omicron variant, but further testing was underway.
“In news that will become increasingly common when we open to interstate hotspots, we have identified a new case who has been infectious in the community,” she said.
“Genomic sequencing is underway but the preliminarily advice is that this is likely to be a Delta case.
“Our public health authorities are investigating whether this case is somehow linked to the previous cases we have seen on the Gold Coast recently, or a new outbreak.
“Either way, it could indicate we have had undetected community transmission in and around the Gold Coast for some time.”
Why Omicron could be a ‘blessing’
An infectious disease expert has claimed the Omicron variant is likely already spreading undetected in NSW, though he revealed the new variant could be a blessing in disguise.
Speaking to Sunrise on Thursday, epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely said it is very likely that cases of Omicron will continue to rise in Australia.
“We do expect case numbers to rise. It has probably got its tentacles into NSW, and it will rise, as it has overseas,” he said.
Initial indications suggest the Omicron strain could be more mild than the Delta variant, with Professor Blakely saying this could provide a pathway out of the pandemic for Australia.
“This one should be more mild, but we don’t know exactly how much more mild it is, so that means that the hospitalisation rate should be less severe. It might become our get out of the pandemic card,” he said.
“This may be a blessing if it displaces Delta and becomes the more mild version, it might help us get out of this pandemic.”
Call to ramp up global vax efforts
A group of global health, business, development and aid organisations, along with leading epidemiologists, have called on the Federal government to ramp up its global vaccination efforts following the emergence of the Omicron variant.
The call came in the form of a joint letter from Business Council of Australia, the Australian Global Health Alliance, Burnet Institute, Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
The group claim the risk of Covid mutations can be reduced through concerted global co-operation, particularly around vaccinations.
The group is headed by health coalition End Covid For All, with spokesperson Reverend Tim Costell saying the spread of another variant of concern is unsurprising given the low vaccination rates globally.
“The emergence of Omicron proves what we have known for some time now, when the virus is left unchecked, it will mutate into potentially more transmissible and dangerous forms,” he said.
“Only three per cent of people in low-income countries are fully vaccinated and case numbers are increasing. This is unfair, immoral, dangerous for those communities and dangerous for Australia.
“While Australia enjoys some of the highest vaccination rates in the world, it won’t mean much if Covid mutates into a vaccine-resistant strain.
“New and unknown variants threaten to undo progress even in nations with high vaccine coverage. Covid-19 really isn’t over for anyone until it’s over for everyone.”
NSW and Victoria release Covid numbers
NSW recorded 271 new Covid cases and zero deaths in the 24 hours to 8pm last night.
At least 92.6 per cent of residents over the age of 16 are fully vaccinated against the virus, with 94.6 having had one dose.
Victoria recorded 1419 new Covid cases and 10 deaths in the past 24 hours.
At least 91 per cent of residents over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated.
New Covid treatment approved in Australia
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has granted provisional approval to a new Covid-19 treatment, amid a slow rise in Omicron cases in Australia.
Yesterday, the TGA announced it had granted provisional approval to Roche Products Pty Ltd for the use of tocilizumab, a treatment to be used on Covid patients over the age of 18 who require oxygen or mechanical ventilation.
“Unlike other Covid-19 treatments, tocilizumab (ACTEMRA) does not directly target SARS-CoV-2 proteins,” the TGA said in a statement.
“Instead, it reduces inflammation by blocking the interleukin-6 receptor, thereby helping to slow the effects of the virus.
“Tocilizumab (ACTEMRA) has been shown to decrease duration of hospitalisation, risk of being placed on mechanical ventilation and risk of death for those with severe Covid-19.”
This treatment has been previously approved by the TGA and is included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods for use in the treatment of various types of arthritis and inflammatory conditions.
Tocilizumab is the fourth Covid treatment to receive regulatory approval in Australia.
The news came as NSW confirmed its sixth case of the Omicron variant on Wednesday, bringing the total number of known cases in Australia to seven.
WHO official leaks early Omicron data
An anonymous World Health Organisation official has hinted at the latest findings on “variant of concern” Omicron ahead of their official release this week.
Speaking to Reuters, the WHO official revealed preliminary investigations indicate most cases of the new variant are “mild” and there is no evidence to suggest current vaccines are less effective in preventing serious illness in patients with Omicron.
However, they did say that some mutations of the virus suggest there could be a risk of faster transmission, adding more than 40 different mutations have been identified with the Omicron variant.
While a lot is still unknown about the new strain, the official said early data suggests existing PCR tests should still be able to detect the virus.
These comments come ahead of WHO’s official release of its latest findings, which are expected to be revealed this week.
The Omicron variant was first reported in South Africa, though the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany have now all reported cases of the variant circulating before it was officially reported.
On Wednesday, Medical Virologist Professor Dominic Dwyer said it would likely take weeks before key information about the Omicron Covid variant is known.
Speaking to Sunrise, he said there were three main things that needed to be determined.
“I think there are three things we need to know how easily does a virus spread, what sort of disease does cause – severe or mild – and do our vaccines work against this new strain,” he said.
“That evidence takes a bit of time and I would have thought it’ll be a couple of weeks yet before we know.”
NSW confirms sixth Omicron case
Yesterday, NSW Health revealed a sixth traveller was infected with the Omicron variant.
The fully vaccinated traveller, a man in his 40s who recently visited South Africa, arrived on flight QR908 from Doha to Sydney on 25 November.
He tested positive to Covid yesterday and is currently isolating in Sydney.
“Everyone on the flight has already been deemed a close contact and has been instructed to get tested immediately for Covid-19 and isolate for 14 days, regardless of their vaccination status,” NSW Health revealed in a statement
“At this point in the investigation, NSW Health is aware of at least six people on this flight who had been in southern Africa in the previous 14 days.”
According to authorities, there is currently no evidence that transmission occurred on the flight.
“However, investigations into the five Covid-19 positive passengers on the flight, which includes two confirmed cases with the Omicron variant, are ongoing,” the statement continued.
NSW Health revealed one venue was visited by the sixth Omicron case.
Anyone who visited the venue at the times listed below is a casual contact and must immediately get tested and isolate until a negative result is received.
• Liverpool Chemist Warehouse, The Grove, Units 3 – 6, 18, Orange Grove Road on Monday 29 November 8:10pm – 8:15pm.
SA records first local cases since reopening border
Former South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has tested positive for Covid-19 after attending a school reunion in Norwood in Adelaide’s east.
Mr Weatherill is the latest to test positive after South Australia on Wednesday recorded three new Covid-19 cases, its first locally acquired cases since borders opened last week.
SA Health confirmed the two cases are men in their 50s who attended the reunion with another positive case, an interstate traveller.
The third is a child who acquired her infection overseas and has been in quarantine since arrival.
It is understood Mr Weatherill was at the same event as the first two cases.
One of the infected men then went to a function last night with Business SA. It is among one of a number of new exposure sites listed by SA Health.
“We are taking an abundance of caution approach,” chief executive Martin Haese told the Advertiser.
“All of the guests at the event were double vaccinated after I brought in that measure on November 23.”