Queensland records ‘first in the world’ new version of the Omicron variant in overseas traveller from South Africa

Health officials in Queensland announced its first Omicron case with a second “Omicron-like” lineage of the strain reported in a man who arrived from South Africa.

Queensland has recorded two cases of the Omicron variant from international travellers.

The first has been confirmed as an Omicron case, while a second infection of another traveller has been identified as a “world first” new version of the variant.

The traveller who recently arrived from South Africa has been diagnosed with “Omicron-like” after health officials determined it was not Delta.

The result came from collaboration with international authorities “reclassifying” a second “lineage” of the variant.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath confirmed it was a new version of the variant.

“Remember, it’s only been days since this has become an issue for Australia and other countries,” she told a COVID-19 press conference.

“And now, today, we are standing here announcing a new version of Omicron and it’s a first in the world.”

Acting Chief Health Officer Peter Aitken said the “Omicron-like” variant had half of the gene mutations compared to the 30 in the first strain.

“It’s got enough to be classified as Omicron but we don’t know enough about it as to what that means as far as clinical severity, vaccine effectiveness,” he said.

A second traveller, a man from Nigeria, is the first case of Omicron in the state after he arrived into Sydney from South Africa.

He flew from Sydney to Cairns on Jetstar flight JQ950 at 6:25am on December 3.

The man tested positive to COVID-19 before further genome sequencing confirmed he had Omicron.

He has since been removed from hotel quarantine and taken to a Brisbane hospital.

Passengers on the flight have been deemed a close contact as the man would have been infectious on board. Due to current border arrangements, all travellers into the Sunshine State would already be in two weeks home quarantine.

Both men are “doing well” and were moved to hospitals as a precautionary measure.

Mr Aitken reminded Queenslanders the coronavirus pandemic was far from over with the arrival of Omicron into the state.

“We have been able to flatten the curve to have vaccine development, we’ve now got vaccine rollout to 80 per cent but as we’re moving into the next phase, we’re moving from elimination to suppression,” he said.

“We will have cases, it means we will have to look at mask wearing, we will have to contact trace, we will have to look at quarantine for close contacts.”

Mr Aitken warned case were expected to peak some time in March and pushed for further vaccination uptake.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath called on roughly 13 per cent of the eligible population over the age of 16, who still have not had a vaccination, to roll their sleeves up for their first jab ahead of the border reopening on Monday.

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