The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has officially landed in Australia after two passengers tested positive for the new strain.
The two people had arrived into Sydney after leaving southern Africa over the weekend and they have both tested positive for the coronavirus.
The passengers, who are both fully vaccinated and were asymptomatic, were among 14 people who arrived into Australia on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Sydney.
Their tests underwent genomic evaluation and it has been confirmed that it's the new strain of Covid-19 that is sparking a flurry of concern around the world.
They're now being housed in special health accommodation along with the other 12 passengers on their flight who came from southern Africa.
The rest of the 260 passengers and aircrew have been told to isolate as they are now considered close contacts.
The Omicron variant was first detected in Botswana and has since spread to several neighbouring countries. It's also been detected in Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium.
It has 32 mutations compared to the original coronavirus that was detected in late 2019 and scientists are now racing to find out whether this means it's more deadly, more transmissible or more effective against vaccines.
The World Health Organization has already declared it a 'variant of concern'.
As a result, the Australian government has moved to reintroduce some travel restrictions.
Non-Australian citizens who have been in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, The Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique now can't enter Australia.
Aussie citizens and their dependents who have been in those southern African countries where the variant has been detected will have spend two weeks in quarantine when they come home.
If someone has recently returned from one of those nine areas then they have to immediately isolate for two weeks.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said they could increase these restrictions if the situation gets worse.
"If the medical evidence shows that further actions are required, we will not hesitate to take them and that may involve strengthening or expanding the restrictions," he said. "The world will learn a lot over the coming weeks.
"It is early days and [The WHO] indicated that the vast majority of people who have been diagnosed so far [are] unvaccinated".
"This does emphasise, if you haven't been vaccinated, please come forward to be vaccinated."
New South Wales and Victoria have also both introduced mandatory 72-hour isolation requirements for all international arrivals.
Featured Image Credit: Thomas Faull/Alamy Live News
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