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Two suspected SA Omicron cases, but Marshall says no lockdowns or border closures

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UPDATED: SA Health has reported eight new COVID-19 cases in South Australia on Friday, with two suspected to be the state’s first cases of the Omicron variant, but Premier Steven Marshall has ruled out any new lockdowns and lock-outs.

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In a statement this afternoon, SA Health said the eight new cases include three men aged between 20 and 90, four women aged between 20 and 60, and a child.

Two of the cases are linked to the Norwood cluster, while a third locally-acquired case is still under investigation.

One of the cases became infected overseas and four acquired the disease interstate. Two of the interstate cases are suspected to be infected with the Omicron variant.

Premier Steven Marshall told FIVEaa radio this morning that he was concerned that the Omicron variant could be detected in “a couple” of people who tested positive for COVID-19 in South Australia.

He said genomic sequence testing was underway to identify the strain of the virus, but it could take some time to receive the results.

South Australia is yet to report confirmed cases of the Omicron variant, which is listed by the World Health Organisation as a COVID-19 variant of concern and has already spread to New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and the ACT.

“We did get a couple of cases overnight – we’re testing those to see if those could be our first cases of Omicron,” Marshall said.

“We don’t have any confirmation so we’re taking it very cautiously.

“It hasn’t moved as quickly as we were thinking it might, but we still have very little information on Omicron.”

SA Health on Friday afternoon added three new close contact exposure sites.

They include Olivers Pets and Plants at Glengowrie on Tuesday December 7 between 8.30am and 5.30pm, Chicken Shack Seafood and Grill at Plympton on Tuesday December 7 between 2pm and 3pm, and Supercheap Auto at Kilburn on Wednesday December 8 between 12pm to 1.40pm.

Close contacts of suspected or confirmed Omicron cases will be required to quarantine for 14 days, even if they are fully-vaccinated.

In a statement issued on Friday evening, chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said the requirement followed advice from the Communicable Disease Network Australia.

“The Communicable Disease Network Australia yesterday updated the National Guidelines stating jurisdictions should consider increasing testing, isolation and quarantine requirements in relation to the Omicron strain,” she said.

“Despite their high vaccination rates, we have already seen the ACT move to all Omicron close contacts requiring 14 days of quarantine.

“South Australia is also in a more vulnerable position to immune-escape from the Omicron strain given our current vaccination rates and potential for higher transmission in comparison to other states.

“With the latest advice and our current situation in mind, 14 days of quarantine will be required for all Omicron, or suspected Omicron, close contacts regardless of their vaccination status.”

Spurrier said casual contacts of Omicron cases need to get tested immediately and quarantine until they receive a negative test result. They also need to get tested on days six and 13.

“We will review the quarantine requirements as we learn more about the severity of Omicron and as always, will put the health and safety of South Australian’s first,” she said.

Earlier on Friday, Marshall insisted that South Australia would make no changes to its border restrictions.

He told a Property Council event after this afternoon’s national cabinet meeting that South Australia would “rule out” state lockdowns and lockouts.

“Obviously we’re still concerned about Omicron, but the good news is that we’re now seeing that the transmissibility isn’t as high as we thought a couple of weeks ago when the World Health Organisation declared it as a variant of concern,” he said.

“I think we can start breathing a sigh of relief. I think we can continue to rule out state lockdowns in South Australia and rule out state lockouts here in South Australia and get back to a normal Christmas.

“The reality is we’ve had about 60 cases in the last two and a half weeks, only two people in hospital.

“We’ve listened to the science, we’ve listened to the experts and we’re getting on with continuing to live with COVID.”

Federal Health Department Secretary Professor Brendan Murphy said the Omicron variant wasn’t leading to high rates of hospitalisation or severe illness in people who are vaccinated.

“There is a suggestion that the vaccines will benefit from a booster to protect against this strain,” he said.

“We don’t know how it will spread in Australia, but we do know that it is here and certainly in Sydney, and it is likely to spread.

“We don’t need to panic. We just need to study it more and very importantly, make sure we get boosters.”

Today’s eight new coronavirus cases bring the total number of active cases in the state to 53.

There are still two people in a stable condition at the Royal Adelaide Hospital – a woman in her 50s and a man in his 30s.

SA Health reported 1591 close contacts were in quarantine, up from nearly 1300 earlier in the week.

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