Victoria records 918 new COVID cases and six deaths

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Victoria has recorded 918 new coronavirus cases and six deaths as a traveller initially suspected of bringing the Omicron strain of COVID-19 to Victoria was cleared of having the new variant through genome sequencing.

The Victorian Department of Health on Monday evening confirmed the results showed the individual did not have the Omicron strain and new advice would be issued to the person’s close contacts.

Earlier this week, health authorities had said that a positive COVID-19 case, who arrived in Sydney from a country of concern, visited Victoria for a short trip before returning to NSW.

As yet, no travellers returning to Victoria from countries of concern have tested positive for the new strain.

The genome sequencing results come as the state recorded xx new COVID-19 cases and XX deaths.

There are now 305 Victorians being treated for the virus in state hospitals, with 94 in intensive care and 19 on ventilators. Of those in intensive care, 53 have been cleared of the virus.

More than 45,658 test results were processed on Sunday, while 3,726 doses of vaccine were administered in state-run hubs. There are now 11,417 active cases of the virus in Victoria.

The figures come after the federal government announced on Monday evening that it was deferring the planned easing of border restrictions until December 15.

About 200,000 workers and students were expected to start arriving from Wednesday, but top federal ministers reviewed the plan ahead of a national cabinet meeting on Tuesday and decided to delay the reopening.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison discussed the pause at a national security committee of federal cabinet on Monday night because of the threat from the new coronavirus strain, as health experts say it is too soon to know if Omicron is more severe than Delta.

Options to delay the opening of the international border on December 1 were put to the committee ahead of an online meeting of national cabinet on Tuesday afternoon.

The Victoria Health Department has confirmed that close contacts of confirmed – and suspected – Omicron cases would need to isolate for 14 days, regardless of their vaccination status.

Officials said international travellers headed to Victoria via another state or territory would need to comply with the quarantine requirements of the jurisdiction where their international flight lands.

Those arriving from high-risk countries in southern Africa are currently required to quarantine for 14 days and those flying in from other parts of the world need to quarantine for 72 hours before continuing to Victoria.

With Marta Pascual Juanola

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