Omicron COVID variant in Sydney, South Africa, Travelers test positive, NSW COVID cases increase, Victoria COVID cases increase, NSW hotel quarantine will be reintroduced

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Urgent genomic sequencing is underway after three people who flew to Sydney after spending time in southern Africa tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday.

Sequencing, which is expected to be completed tonight, will determine whether they have the Omicron variant of the virus that prompted tougher border measures over the weekend.

Two of the cases were among three positive cases detected on flights that arrived in Sydney from southern Africa on Sunday. NSW Health said one of the cases was likely considered an old infection. The other two cases are in the process of being sequenced.

The infection of a fourth case of COVID-19, which arrived in Sydney from southern Africa on November 23 and tested positive on Sunday, is also being sequenced.

However, Dr Jeremy McAnulty of NSW Health said initial tests indicated that person was “unlikely” to have been infected with the Omicron variant.

“This person, who is fully vaccinated and asymptomatic, is isolating himself at her home in Sydney,” he said.

NSW yesterday recorded Australia’s first two cases of the Omicron variant: a pair that arrived in Sydney around 7 p.m. Saturday on a Qatar Airways flight.

The 260 passengers and crew on flight QR908 are considered close contacts of a case and have been ordered to self-isolate.

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