New South Wales health authorities have confirmed that five people in Sydney, Australia’s largest city, have contracted the omicron variant of the coronavirus. 

According to NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant, the cases are linked to two schools and a climbing gym in Sydney’s western suburbs, which may also be the source of a confirmed omicron infection in the Australian Capital Territory. In a video update, she said that urgent genome testing is currently under way for a number of other cases connected to the venues and that results should be released soon.

Also Read | Omicron more transmissible than other variants: Singapore health ministry

According to Chant, the state of New South Wales has confirmed 15 omicron infections, with more likely to follow. Infected passengers on a flight from Doha who had been in southern Africa caused the outbreak. 

The omicron variant of COVID-19, which was first discovered in southern Africa, has now been found in countries ranging from the United States to South Korea, highlighting the difficulty of containing contagious new strains. Researchers around the world are rallying efforts to understand the full impact of the new strain, and governments have issued travel bans to South Africa and neighbouring countries, fearing that omicron could evade vaccine protection and fuel new outbreaks.

Due to omicron fears, the state of South Australia has increased restrictions for international travellers on Saturday, requiring all people arriving, not just those from southern Africa, to quarantine for 14 days. Travelers from Australia’s south-eastern states will be required to test upon arrival and isolate themselves until a negative result is received, according to state Premier Steven Marshall. 

Also Read | Omicron found in nearly one-third of US states, Delta maintains dominance

South Australian authorities are “extraordinarily concerned” about the outbreak in Sydney and the case in the ACT, but Marshall told reporters Saturday that the state’s border will remain open for the time being.”We don’t know enough about the omicron variant at this stage,” he said after a meeting with officials to discuss closing the border as per NDTV report.

Omicron is “here in Australia,” he said. “It’s contained to this point but we could receive further information in the coming days that it is no longer contained.”