The Omicron Covid variant, first discovered in South Africa, has been detected around the world over the weekend raising fears of new lockdowns.
Omicron has been recorded in Belgium, Botswana, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, the United Kingdom and Australia.
The variant was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by South Africa on Wednesday and early evidence suggests it has a higher re-infection risk. It has been categorised by the WHO as a “variant of concern.”
NSW Health confirmed two returned travellers tested positive for the new Omicron COVID-19 variant in Sydney, making them the first known cases of the strain in Australia.
The two positive cases are in isolation in the state’s Special Health Accommodation.
Both people, who are fully vaccinated and were asymptomatic, arrived in Sydney from southern Africa on Saturday, November 27.
The cases saw NSW Health change its advice for international travellers returning to Sydney as a precaution to stem the spread of the new Omicron B.1.1.529 variant.
Anyone arriving in the state from the nine impacted southern African countries — South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, Malawi, and the Seychelles — is now required to go into hotel quarantine for 14 days.
That is irrespective of their vaccine status and brings NSW in line with measures also announced by the Federal Government.
Travellers from other countries are now also required to immediately go to their place of residence or accommodation and isolate for 72 hours pending further health advice.
In Greece, five Greek citizens, who arrived from South African countries via a stopover in the United Arab Emirates, have been placed on a ten-day precautionary quarantine.
According to state news agency AMNA, they tested negative for COVID-19 upon arrival. However, they are staying in a quarantine hotel.
The passengers will undergo a molecular diagnostic test (PCR) after ten days and if the result is negative their quarantine will end.
In response to this new Covid strain, Greece has imposed new travel restrictions. Foreign travellers coming into Greece from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Eswatini and Zambia will have to get special permission from the Greek consulate to enter the country, and they must be fully vaccinated.