Australian state sticking to reopening plan despite Omicron variant concerns

Sydney, Nov 29 (IANS): Australia's most populous state of New South Wales (NSW) would continue forward with plans to ease Covid restrictions, despite growing concerns over the new Omicron variant.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Monday that Australia should not have a "knee-jerk" reaction to the emerging Omicron variant, since the health officials are still obtaining more information and residents needed to learn to live alongside the virus and any new variants.

"The pandemic is not over, but we need to continue to open up our state, open up our economy," Perrottet said.

"When there are new variants the response should not be, 'Let's shut down.'"

The state reported two cases of the Omicron strain on Sunday who are international travellers arriving Sydney from southern Africa.

But Perrottet said the state will need to open "safely". He also hinted there might now be three positive cases of the new omicron strain of Covid in NSW, whom the state's health department is investigating, Xinhua news agency reported.

Meanwhile, the neighbouring states of Victoria is also investigating a suspected Omicron case, as the person might travel to Victoria from NSW and subsequently return to NSW.

Victorian Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said health authorities had been "working through the night" to understand the circumstances of the person.

"If there is a confirmed case (in Victoria), the Department of Health will then make a decision based on that individual's assess stances as to what recommendations they may give in terms of periods of isolation and quarantining," Allan said.

Close contacts of confirmed and suspected Omicron Covid cases will also have to be isolated for 14 days, regardless of their vaccination status, according to the Victorian Health Department.

On Monday, Victoria reported 1,007 new cases of Covid-19, while NSW reported 150 new cases. Although the officials haven't revealed any changes of the reopening decision to non-citizens and permanent residents in December, both states have tightened their international border rules.

All vaccinated international travellers would be required to isolate for 72 hours on arrival into the two states.



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