DIGEST

Informer: New variant an unwelcome arrival

Professor Kelly said the Omicron variant could actually be
Professor Kelly said the Omicron variant could actually be "relatively mild compared with previous versions" such as the Delta strain but "will spread" because it is highly transmissible. Image: ABC News

Anyone else feel like the rug is about to be ripped out from underneath them?

We've had borders reopening, restrictions have eased and mask mandates are on their way out (in some settings), so it was looking like the end of 2021 was going to be a relatively 'normal' one.

However, in an unfortunate groundhog day moment, we've got a new strain of COVID-19 on our hands - Omicron.

This morning Australia's Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said Omicron was a "variant of concern".

"I will stress, that it's still the same SARS-CoV-2 that we've become used to, but it is different from previous versions," he said.

"There are suggestions from that genetic variation that there could be changes in severity, transmissibility or indeed, interference with the efficacy of vaccines and treatments."

But, there is "no solid evidence" that it could impact the efficacy of the vaccine.

Here's hoping the jab does its job!

Despite only finding out about this new variant late last week, Australia has already had a few people test positive for the strain.

This morning NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said there were "possibly" three cases of the Omicron variant among travellers who arrived in the state from South Africa.

However, he said there were no plans to change the state's reopening roadmap, with unvaccinated people in NSW to experience eased restrictions from December 15.

"We've got to learn to live alongside the variants of the virus that come our way," he said.

"And the vaccination rate here is one of the highest in the world."

The NT has also had a traveller return a positive result for the new variant; but the man was already in quarantine when he was diagnosed with the virus.

That's something for the territory to be thankful for as it continues to battle COVID-19 outbreaks in remote communities.

Those planning a Queensland holiday this summer can still do so - but with caution.

Although the state has said there were no plans to change it's reopening plan, QLD's Deputy Premier Steven Miles said health experts were keeping an eye on the new variant to assess whether current restrictions in the state could be affected.

Holiday makers - keep those fingers crossed.

If you've already nabbed both jabs, you might be lining up for third sooner than once thought.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has revealed the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) was reviewing the 6-month time frame given Omicron's arrival on our shores.

And thanks to that unwanted arrival, more changes to Australia's border rules have not been ruled out.

Considering the rules only changed a few weeks ago, it's proof that COVID is still a moving, and ever-changing, beast.

Let's hope for a lockdown-free, restriction-free holiday season for us all!

In fact, let's make it our Christmas wish.

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