PM calls for calm after new ‘Omicron’ variant arrives in Australia

Australians are being urged not to panic over the latest variant of concern that has now been confirmed in New South Wales.

‘Omicron’ first emerged in South Africa but has since been picked up in several other countries, including Australia.

The Prime Minister is expected to call a National Cabinet meeting for today or tomorrow, to discuss the new variant with state and territory leaders.


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“The fact that we’ve had a new variant is not a surprise, we’ve been saying all through the pandemic that new variants will come and we’ll deal with them as they turn up,” Scott Morrison told Nine this morning.

“We’ll get the best information, we’ll work together, we’ll make sensible, practical, balanced decisions, and my message to people is to remain calm, keep doing what you’re doing.”

It comes amid reports that New South Wales may have recorded a third case of the variant after 141 people recently arrived from southern Africa.

They’re all understood to be getting tested and are isolating as a precaution.

Related article: Omicron variant confirmed in NSW arrivals

There were initial fears that this strain spreads quicker than Delta and could be more deadly.

While Australia did take precautionary measures to close the border to tourists from nine African countries over the weekend, the country’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly insists it’s still very early days.

“There are some signs in South Africa, but particularly those in other countries and that number is growing overnight, that it is relatively mild compared with previous versions,” Mr Kelly told the ABC this morning.

“But it is early days and we need to be careful of that. But there’s no sign that it is more severe at the moment.

“It does transmit from person to person quite readily – at least at well as the Delta virus. And so that means that it will spread.

“In terms of the vaccines, there is no solid evidence at the moment that there is a problem with that.

“Although we will wait for further advice and laboratory studies in the coming days and weeks,” Mr Kelly said.

Mr Kelly hasn’t ruled out any further action, insisting that authorities are monitoring it all very closely.

“We’re taking a risk-balanced approach at the moment and concentrating on those nine southern African countries.

“We have increased our surveillance at the border, and after the border, we’re working very closely with our colleagues in New South Wales and Victoria, particularly, because they’re the ones that have had quarantine-free travel, as well as in the ACT, as to what is the best approach.

“At the moment, we’ve bought time to get more information and to consider that balance, but there’s always pros and cons for these sorts of decisions.

“That’s what we’re doing at the moment. AHPPC met over the weekend every day. We’ll have another meeting today.

“There will be further discussions on that matter and, you know, when decisions are made, of course, we’ll always communicate those,” Mr Kelly said.

Related article: Omicron variant confirmed in NSW arrivals