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Victoria deaths top 500 in latest Covid-19 outbreak – RNZ

Victoria has recorded 1061 new local Covid-19 cases and four deaths as tighter border rules are coming into force to respond to the new Omicron variant.
An ambulance being cleaned at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. (file pic) Photo: AFP
There are now 11,331 active cases of the virus in Victoria, and 503 people have died during the state’s current Delta outbreak.
As part of precautionary measures to deal with the Omicron variant, all overseas arrivals in Victoria are now required to isolate at home for 72 hours.
Additionally, anyone who has visited one of the nine southern African countries of concern – Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi, South Africa, Namibia, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique and the Seychelles – in the past 14 days must undergo hotel quarantine for a fortnight.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there is still too much unknown about the Omicron variant to speculate about future plans and vaccine efficiency.
“We’ll keep a very close eye on it and we need to be responsive.
“Our intention … is to open safely. I’m quite encouraged by the fact that the Victorian health and hospital system is standing up well.”
He is backing Australia’s public health system and high vaccination rate to help see the country through.
No Omicron cases have been detected in Australia so far.
Scott Morrison says Australia will be closely tracking developments with Omicron. Photo: AFP
Professor Bruce Thompson, lead epidemiologist at Swinburne University, said the restrictions were “not unreasonable” and would allow Victorian health officials to closely monitor the new strain of Covid-19.
“What we’ve learnt from the last couple of years now is that you have to act really, really quickly and early,” said Professor Thompson, adding that the virus was “here to stay”.
“This is just another argument why you need to be vaccinated because it’s some protection that’s way better than none.”
There are 283 people in hospital with Covid-19 – of those 44 are in intensive care and 20 are on a ventilator.
Victoria has now fully vaccinated about 90 percent of its population aged 12 and older.
New South Wales has recorded 185 new cases.
The population aged 16 and over is 92.4 per cent double-vaccinated.
There are 165 people in hospital, with 24 of them in intensive care.
Meanwhile, urgent genomic testing is underway to determine if Covid-positive passengers who have arrived in Sydney from South Africa are carrying the Omicron variant.
NSW Health confirmed 14 passengers who arrived in Sydney yesterday were from the southern African countries affected by the new border rules.
The passengers were transported to Special Health Accommodation where they will undergo 14 days of quarantine.
NSW Health said other passengers on the flight may be considered close contacts and would be contacted to get tested immediately, as well as isolate for two weeks.
It is less than a month since NSW completely removed all quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated international arrivals.
Victoria and the ACT had followed suit, effectively opening the international border to half of the country from the start of November.
In response to Omicron concerns, however, any international arrivals into all three states will now be required to self-isolate for at least 72 hours, regardless of vaccination status.
Copyright © 2021, Radio New Zealand
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