Health authorities of Australia's state of New South Wales on Sunday afternoon confirmed two cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant after conducting urgent genomic sequencing from overseas travellers.
The state, where the country's biggest international airport is located, said on Sunday morning that two of 14 arrivals from southern African countries have tested positive for Covid-19, and urgent genomic sequencing for the Omicron variant has begun, Xinhua news agency reported.
The variant, believed to be more infectious than all previous strains, was first detected in South Africa and flagged as a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday.
Health authorities said the two cases, both coming to Sydney from southern Africa on the evening of Saturday, underwent testing on arrival and tested positive for Covid-19 late Saturday night.
The two people were asymptomatic and are in isolation in the Special Health Accommodation. Both the cases are fully vaccinated.
The two passengers were amongst 14 travellers from southern Africa who arrived in Sydney via Doha. The remaining 12 passengers are undertaking 14 days of hotel quarantine in the Special Health Accommodation. Around 260 passengers and air crew on the flight are considered close contacts and have been directed to isolate.
Before the two cases were confirmed to be infected with the new variant, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet warned that it is inevitable new variants will enter Australia, and said the government is taking a precautionary approach to the new variant.
The state already introduced some new measures from midnight Saturday, including mandatory hotel quarantine for travellers who have been in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, Malawi, and Seychelles during the 14-day period before their arrival in NSW.
Those who has already arrived in NSW from any of the nine African countries within the previous 14 days must immediately get tested and isolate for 14 days, said the NSW health authorities.