Australia’s health authorities said on Wednesday that they have found an Omicron lineage in a person who arrived in Queensland from South Africa. The new lineage found in the traveller has about half the gene variations of the original Omicron variant and cannot be detected with regular screening. The traveller arrived in the country last Saturday and tested positive for Covid 19.
Queensland’s acting chief health officer Peter Aitken told reporters that the new lineage has enough characteristics for the authorities to be able to classify it as Omicron, but nothing about its severity can be told yet.
Mr Aitken further explained that the new lineage has about half, or 14, of the genome mutations of the original Omicron variant and does not have the S gene dropout feature, which makes it difficult to track through conventional testing.
As for the original variant, it has been rapidly spreading in several parts of the world, including India. Initial studies say that Omicron may pose higher infection risk but its severity is milder compared to the Delta variant. There are also reports that an extra dose of vaccine can help counter its threats.