Australia reports first locally transmitted Omicron case

Australia reports first locally transmitted Omicron case

Australia on Friday reported a student with no history of foreign travel had tested positive for the Covid-19 Omicron variant, the country's first detected case of community transmission.

Empty table and chairs are seen at a closed restaurant along a quiet Sydney Opera House forecourt in Sydney on July 6, 2021, as the city remains in lockdown for a second week to contain an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta Covid-19 variant. AFP

The case, detected in the country's largest city Sydney, comes despite a ban on non-citizens entering the country and restrictions on flights from southern Africa, where the variant was first detected.

New South Wales Health said "the case has no overseas travel history or links to people with overseas travel history" but stressed that further investigations and contact tracing were underway.

Australia has detected nine other Omicron cases, but all were detected in incoming travellers.

The latest case raises the possibility that Omicron may already be spreading more widely in the community.

The student's Regents Park Christian School in the west of Sydney has been closed and the family is said to be in quarantine.

Australia currently records around 2,000 Covid cases a day.

Besides vaccinations, the virus' spread has been limited by two years of border closures, lockdowns, aggressive testing and tracing as well as local travel bans.

Authorities have expressed confidence that with 87 percent of people over 16 years old vaccinated, the country is well placed to deal with the new variant. 

Hospitalisation rates are currently low, and the pandemic death toll stands at 2,021.

The severity of Omicron is not yet known and it is also unclear whether it could render existing vaccines less effective.

But there are concerns the variant could be more transmissible than the dominant Delta strain.

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