Three Omicron cases confirmed in Sydney school cluster as new COVID-19 variant hits ACT

The Omicron variant has made its way to the nation's capital, as NSW authorities remain on high alert over a cluster at a Sydney school.

Healthcare workers administer COVID-19 tests at a drive through test centre in Liverpool, Sydney.

Healthcare workers administer COVID-19 tests at a drive through test centre in Liverpool, Sydney. Source: AAP

There are fears the Omicron variant is circulating in New South Wales after at least three cases were linked to a western Sydney school, as the new strain is confirmed in the nation's capital and Queensland recorded its second case of the virus.

The ACT recorded its first confirmed case of the Omicron coronavirus variant on Friday, prompting a further tightening of quarantine requirements.

The fully vaccinated person returned a positive test result on Wednesday, with genomic testing subsequently confirming the variant.

The individual had not travelled overseas but it's not yet known if the case was acquired in the ACT or NSW, ACT Health said in a statement on Friday.

NSW investigating school cluster

But concerns are growing the strain is spreading within NSW. Thirteen cases of COVID-19 have been linked to a cluster at a western Sydney school, with at least three of the students confirmed as having the Omicron variant.

The first student to test positive for Omicron had no link to overseas travellers.

Another two students from Regents Park Christian School in western Sydney have been confirmed to have Omicron, with another 10 students testing positive for the disease and awaiting genomic testing on the variant.

All staff and students at the school are close contacts and are required to get tested and isolate.

A close contact of an Omicron case visited a Villawood rock climbing gym on Saturday and that gym is now a close contact site as well.

NSW Health is "urgently investigating" the source of infection for the school cluster.

"This is of concern to the extent that this is the first case that we know of that appears not to have had any travel history," Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.

"It would appear that the case could well be an on-NSW-soil transmission."

Students from the school have already been dismissed for the year, but contact tracing and further investigations are underway.

 

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard.
Source: AAP

The three confirmed cases in students at the school takes the number of confirmed Omicron cases in NSW to 11.

The tally includes a child whose diagnosis sparked a number of new public health alerts in the Chatswood area in Sydney's north, which are listed on the NSW Health website.

Urgent genomic testing is underway to confirm whether the child's fully vaccinated parents have the new variant too.

The family - which had not been in southern Africa - is in special health accommodation.

Countries in southern Africa are of particular concern to health authorities.

But NSW Health is concerned the family caught the virus while flying into Sydney on Qatar Airways flight QR908 from Doha on November 23, and is contacting other travellers on that flight.

NSW Health reported 337 cases of the coronavirus in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday - the highest tally in six weeks - but no new virus deaths.

New virus case in Brisbane

Queensland recorded its second COVID-19 case in three days after a person tested positive in southeast Brisbane, after being infectious in the community for two days.

Queensland Health issued a public health alert on Friday, confirming the case and listing exposure sites in Capalaba.

"Contact tracing and investigation is underway," a department statement said.

The exposures sites include an Ampol service station and six shops at the Capalaba Park Shopping Centre on Tuesday.

However, the only close exposure site listed is the Sit at Siam Thai Restaurant on Monday night.

The case comes with authorities trying to find the missing link that spread the virus to a Gold Coast man, who tested positive on Wednesday.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Peter Aitken said the man was genomically linked to NSW clusters but had not travelled interstate.

"So we don't know how he's got COVID at this stage," he told reporters.

"What it does mean is that we need everyone at Gold Coast to come forward and get tested, more important to get vaccinated."

Health Minister Yvette D'Ath urged people to get tested as the person who passed on COVID-19 to the man could still be infectious in the community:

First Northern Territory COVID death

The Northern Territory also recorded its first death from COVID-19 as police start an investigation into the border breach that ignited the current outbreak.

The unvaccinated 77-year-old Aboriginal woman from the Binjari community died about 11.30pm on Thursday.

She had "bravely battled" the virus about two weeks, Chief Minister Michael Gunner told reporters on Friday.

"This is a very hard day," he said.

"While we are the last place in Australia to have one of our own succumb to COVID, it is very unlikely to be the last time we have to deliver such news."

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner.
Source: AAP

Mr Gunner said the woman had been in Royal Darwin Hospital since November 20 and had underlying health issues.

There are 60 cases in the territory's current outbreak. The majority are Indigenous Territorians.

The fatality comes a day after the virus was detected in another remote community, with a 45-year-old man diagnosed in Lajamanu, 900km northwest of Alice Springs, near the Western Australia border.

Mr Gunner said the man contracted the virus after travelling 600km to Katherine to get his second vaccine dose on November 15.

Lajamanu is the third Aboriginal community to record an infection.


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Published 3 December 2021 at 7:33pm
Source: AAP - SBS