Australia Confirms 2 Omicron Cases As Travel Restrictions Tighten | WJHL
HONG KONG (AP) – Australian officials confirmed on Sunday that two overseas travelers arriving in Sydney are the first to test positive in the country for the omicron variant of the coronavirus, as countries around the world tighten controls against the disturbing new strain.
The two passengers were among a group of 14 other people who arrived in Australia from southern Africa on Saturday. They were asymptomatic and both were vaccinated against COVID-19. The other 12 have been placed in quarantine.
Neighboring New Zealand has announced it is restricting travel from nine southern African countries due to the threat posed by the variant, and Japan has expanded its border controls to include more countries in the region.
Tourist-dependent Thailand, which only recently began to ease its strict border restrictions on leisure travelers from some countries, announced its own ban on visitors from eight African countries. Similar restrictions have come into effect in Singapore’s business hub, which prohibits entry and transit to anyone who has recently traveled to seven southern African countries.
Sri Lanka has banned the disembarkation of passengers from six African countries due to the detection of the omicron variant, as has the Maldives, the luxury resort archipelago in the Indian Ocean. In addition to the similar entry ban, quarantine officials in the Philippines have been ordered to trace recent travelers from southern Africa and quarantine them.
Israel went further, barring entry to all foreign nationals, imposing quarantine on all Israelis arriving from abroad and blacklisting travel to 50 African countries. He also endorsed the use of the controversial internal security agency Shin Bet’s phone monitoring technology to conduct contact tracing of people confirmed with the new omicron variant of the coronavirus in Israel.
The stricter restrictions reflect the swift action taken by countries around the world to limit the spread of the omicron variant just days after it was identified by researchers in South Africa. The act first, ask questions later approach reflected growing concern about the emergence of a potentially more contagious variant almost two years after a pandemic that killed more than 5 million people. , disrupted lives and disrupted economies around the world.
While much remains to be learned about the new variant, researchers fear that it is no longer resistant to the protection provided by vaccines and could mean the pandemic lasts longer than expected.
Cases involving the omicron variant have already been confirmed on several continents, with Germany, Italy, Belgium, Israel and Hong Kong all reporting cases in recent days.
America’s top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci said he wouldn’t be surprised if the omicron variant was already in the United States as well.
“We haven’t detected it yet, but when you have a virus that shows that level of transmissibility… it will almost invariably end up disappearing pretty much everywhere,” Fauci told NBC television.
In Australia, the New South Wales Department of Health said infected travelers were from one of nine African countries which are now required to self-quarantine in a hotel upon arrival in Sydney. The countries are South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, Malawi and Seychelles.
New Zealand COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the island nation was taking a precautionary approach. From Sunday evening, only New Zealand citizens from nine African countries will be allowed entry into New Zealand, and they will have to spend two weeks in a quarantine hotel run by the military.
Hipkins said officials were confident the variant had not entered New Zealand and that they were in a good position to prevent it from entering.
Many countries have placed restrictions on various southern African countries over the past two days, including Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Iran and the United States, in response to warnings about the transmissibility of the new variant. This goes against the advice of the World Health Organization, which has warned against overreacting before the variant is studied in depth.
Schreck reported from Bangkok. Associated Press editors Nick Perry in Wellington, New Zealand, Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Krishan Francis in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, contributed to this report.