First infection of new Covid variant detected in Australia
A new Covid variant has been detected in Australia for the first time as leading experts warn of more to come.
NSW has reported a case of Omicron XE infection brought in by an overseas traveller.
The state was also the first to report a case of another recombinant strain dubbed Deltacron, with that variant spreading two Queensland within 24 hours of being detected.
There are fears a further relaxing rules for international arrivals will see more - and potentially deadlier - variants enter the country.
XE is a combination of the two Omicron variant subtypes BA.1 and BA.2.
The variant is what’s known as recombinant, meaning it is a mixture of the two different strains and has characteristics of both.
More than a thousand cases of XE have been recorded in the UK and cases have also been detected in Thailand, India and Israel.
Its presence around the world suggests it has been spread by open borders and international travel.
From Monday, international arrivals will no longer need to test negative to Covid-19 before leaving for Australia, meaning more cases of new variants could arrive in the country.
“As the Covid pandemic has progressed, we’ve repeatedly seen the arrival of new viral variants,” University of Leeds virologist Grace Roberts wrote in The Conversation.
While the properties of XE are not yet well known, Dr Roberts said there did not appear to be cause for additional concern.
“We know that Omicron XE has the majority of its genetic information, including the spike protein, from the Omicron sub-variant BA.2, which is the variant predominating in the UK at the moment,” she said.
“It is likely, therefore, that the characteristics of omicron XE (such as transmissibility, severity of disease and vaccine efficacy) are similar to those of BA.2.”
NSW recorded 17,856 positive cases of Covid on Thursday, with a total 1582 Covid cases admitted to hospital, including 71 people in intensive care, 23 of whom require ventilation.
The state also recorded 21 Covid-linked deaths on Thursday, including one person who was over 100-year-old.
Of those that died, three people were not vaccinated.
Originally published as First infection of new Covid variant detected in Australia
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