Police officers stand guard as travellers arrive for hotel quarantine in Melbourne, Australia. File/AFP
Health officials in Germany’ Munich and Australia's state Sydney have confirmed on Sunday that two arrivals (both the countries) from southern Africa over the weekend had tested positive for the Omicron coronavirus variant.
The New South Wales health department said both passengers had come to Sydney on Saturday evening and had tested positive for COVID-19 late that night.
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Meanwhile, Germany's first two cases of the Omicron variant have been confirmed in Munich, German news agency (dpa) quoted the Bavarian health minister as saying on Saturday.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified Omicron, first detected in South Africa in November, as a variant of concern.
The two travellers found to be carrying the strain in Germany had entered the country by plane from South Africa on 24th November, Bavarian Health Minister Klaus Holetschek said.
A vial and a syringe are seen in front of a displayed South Africa flag in this illustration taken. Reuters
According to the Australian health officials they had detected the Covid Omicron strain in Australia for the first time in two passengers who were tested after flying into Sydney from southern Africa.
The eastern state of New South Wales' health authority said it had conducted urgent genomic testing and confirmed the new strain was present in the two people who landed in Sydney on Saturday.
Both passengers came from southern Africa and arrived in Australia on a Qatar Airways flight via Doha, NSW Health said in a statement.
They tested positive for Covid shortly after arriving, leading to an urgent analysis for possible infection by the heavily mutated Omicron strain.
"The two positive cases, who were asymptomatic, are in isolation in the special health accommodation. Both people are fully vaccinated," NSW Health said.
Another 12 passengers from southern Africa on the same flight did not test positive for Covid but had been placed in quarantine, it said.
About 260 passengers and crew on the plane have also been told to isolate, the health authority said.
The plane with the infected passengers landed on the same day that Australia announced it was banning flights from nine southern African countries including South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The World Health Organization has listed Omicron as a variant of concern and said it could take several weeks to know if there are significant changes in transmissibility, severity or implications for Covid vaccines, tests and treatments.
The 21 deaths reported in New South Wales on Wednesday topped the previous record of 18 set on Monday. The state saw 34,759 new COVID-19 cases and 2,242 hospitalizations, including 175 patients in intensive care.
As greater Melbourne passed the halfway point of a lockdown initially intended to last six weeks, Premier Daniel Andrews said the state would be stuck in "limbo" unless it could cut the infection rate.
Despite a lockdown that began in early July, Melbourne has continued to report hundreds of new cases daily, and authorities said the city's residents would now face a curfew from 8 pm to 5 am for the next six weeks.
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An engineer by training, he cofounded Intel in July 1968, eventually serving as president, chief executive and chairman of the board.