WATCH LIVE: Health Minister Greg Hunt to provide Australia travel update to Africa after Omicron coronavirus variant

Health Minister Greg Hunt and Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly will speak about the new coronavirus strain. Join Sky News Australia from 12:15pm for the press conference.

Health Minister Greg Hunt and Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly will provide an update on the new coronavirus strain detected in Africa.

The World Health Organisation said the B.1.1.529 variant – now known as Omicron – had a “large number of mutations, some of which are concerning”.

“Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other (Variant of concern) VOCs. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa,” it said in a statement.

The Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution held an emergency meeting to assess the new variant, which has been detected at faster rather than pervious infections. 

“Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to detect this variant,” the WHO said. 

“Several labs have indicated that for one widely used PCR test, one of the three target genes is not detected (called S gene dropout or S gene target failure) and this test can therefore be used as marker for this variant, pending sequencing confirmation.

“Using this approach, this variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage.”

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The strain was reportedly first detected in Botswana on November 11 before subsequent infections found in South Africa and in a traveller in Hong Kong hotel quarantine.

More to come.

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