Two Sydney Harbour party boat passengers likely have new variant

A top health expert has said the rise of Omicron Covid cases in Australia is a “wake-up call”, with Victoria set to confirm its first incidence of the variant today.

It comes after two of five COVID-19 cases stemming from a party boat outbreak in Sydney Harbour, were found to be Omicron yesterday.

And more cases are expected from that outbreak, with 140 guests in isolation.

QVB People Christmas shopping. Christmas. Generic. 25th Nov 2021. Photo: Edwina Pickles / SMH (Edwina Pickles)

“It is a wake-up call that coronavirus is out in the community, and it is extremely infectious, whether it is Delta or Omicron,” CSIRO health director Dr Rob Grenfell told Today.

“All large events pose a threat for us.”

He said people could take elementary steps to protect themselves from potential spread.

“Be aware that you need to check in so that you can be notified if a case has come out where you are,” he said.

“If you are not really confident you have the choice of not going. Wearing masks are effective in tight spots for preventing an infection.”

Dr Grenfell said while Omicron appeared more transmissible than Delta, the jury was still out on how severe it was.

“As we know, it takes a few days to get infected and around about another week until you get quite ill,” he said.

“From that point it takes another two to three weeks before you actually severely ill. We have a bit of time to run on this before we find out if this is more severe than Delta, or how severe this illness is.”

Two men in a boat pass the Sydney Harbour Bridge near East Balmain during the NSW statewide COVID-19 lockdown.
Dozens of Sydney Harbour party boat passengers are being told to get tested and isolate. (The Sydney Morning Herald)

Authorities said the Sydney cruise, operated by Cadman Cruises, left King Street Wharf 9 at 7.30pm and returned about 11pm, on December 3.

On a Facebook event page set up for the cruise, organisers last week reminded guests to keep their mask on at all times unless eating or drinking and to bring proof of COVID-19 vaccination or an official exemption.

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“Flow Presents and Cadman Cruises are COVID-safe businesses and abide by all current health orders and guidelines,” they said.

“We kindly ask that all patrons assist us with compliance and social distancing.”

None have needed hospital treatment and most are linked to a cluster in Western Sydney.

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