NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has vowed for the moment to stick with plans to further reopen the state in mid-December despite concerns over a new Covid variant.
Health officials have ordered genomic sequencing after two international travellers from southern Africa who arrived at Sydney Airport on Saturday tested positive for coronavirus.
Urgent tests are being carried out to determine if the travellers were infected with the Omicron variant which has sparked concerns around the globe.
NSW is set to ease restrictions on December 15 or when the state reaches 95 per cent double vaccination rates.
Mr Perrottet said on Sunday that for “the moment” it was his plan to stick with the government’s road map, adding that NSW could not be a “a hermit kingdom on the other side of the world”.
“Ultimately, we not only need to learn to live alongside the virus, but live alongside the variants as well,” he said.
“This pandemic is not over. These variants will continue, cases will continue to rise and the best thing we can do to keep the community safe, keep your family safe is to go out and get vaccinated and get that booster shot when you can.”
The government said that on Saturday that 29 people across two flights arrived in Sydney from the nine south African nations of concern.
Under federal measures, travellers entering the country from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, Malawi, and the Seychelles in the last 14 days have been ordered into hotel quarantine.
Mr Perrottet said that is was inevitable that the Omicron variant would spread into other countries, with Italy, UK and Germany all recording cases of the variant.
“If you look at Delta … how quickly that come into countries around the world, the Prime Minister cancelled flights into here,” the Premier said.
“The reality is these variants are highly transmissible and that means it is almost certain it will get into countries around the world. That is the reality of the situation.
“We can’t look at the world as we want it to be, we need to look at the situation as it is.”
The emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is a reminder there is a “long journey to go” in the pandemic, according to NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet. “We’ve had 15 people from South Africa, or one of those related countries, fly in last night, on those flights two have been tested positive for COVID,” Mr Perrottet told Sky News Political Editor Andrew Clennell. “Those passengers are currently in quarantine, in a health facility, as we work through that and the health teams are currently doing the genomic sequencing just to determine what strain of COVID it is. Mr Perrottet said the new variant hadn’t affected the state’s reopening plan yet, telling Sky News Australia the government would be “sticking to that plan”.
From December 15, NSW restrictions will ease for unvaccinated people while masks will only be required for public transport, on planes, at airports and for unvaccinated front-of-house hospitality staff.
As well, QR code check-ins will only be required for high-risk venues such as hospitals, aged care facilities, gyms, places or worship and bars.
Mr Perrottet did not rule out new restrictions if the Omicron variant fuelled another wave of cases however he said that it was the government’s intention to stick to its road map.
He pushed the importance of getting vaccinated as well as receiving a booster shot, which is available six months after a person receives their second dose.
“We have a road map and that’s clearly set out,” he said.
“There will be variants from time to time. We have said that from the outset. This pandemic is not over, challenges will continue to come our way.
“We have said if there are instances along the way where we need to put in certain restrictions at certain points in time in a targeted way we will, but we are not there.”
NSW on Sunday recorded 185 new Covid cases in the previous 24 hours.
To date, 92.4 per cent of the state is fully vaccinated while 94.5 per cent have received a first dose.