Omicron confirmed in Sydney passengers

The Omicron COVID-19 variant has been found in two overseas travellers who arrived in Sydney.
The Omicron COVID-19 variant has been found in two overseas travellers who arrived in Sydney.

Scott Morrison has assured Australians the country is not facing the same sort of challenges it endured when the coronavirus first arrived in early 2020, as a new variant is confirmed in NSW.

The prime minister said the emergence of Omicron is a fast-moving issue but the government will continue to be guided by the best possible medical advice.

The comments came shortly before confirmation two overseas passengers, who arrived in Sydney from southern Africa on Saturday, were infected with the new variant.

"This is not like it was back in February and March and 2020," Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Sunday.

"We now have good knowledge, good advice, the uncertainties are not like they used to be, we have good systems which have been proven."

Australia has shut its borders to nine southern African countries and states have brought in new rules for international arrivals amid concern over Omicron.

The two confirmed cases are isolating in Special Health Accommodation, and about 260 passengers and air crew on the same flight have been directed to isolate.

They include 12 passengers from southern Africa undertaking 14 days of hotel quarantine in the Special Health Accommodation.

Victoria's chief health officer Brett Sutton said not enough is known about Omicron but it appears to be a very transmissible variant.

"It certainly seems to have spread very quickly in southern Africa and in the Republic of South Africa in particular," he told reporters in Melbourne.

"Numbers have been increasing evidently over a short period of time, it has become the predominant variant in that country already in a very short period of time."

Even so, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese congratulated state governments for their swift action.

"This strain could cause a real problem," he told reporters in Melbourne.

"We know that with Delta it spread very quickly, and we need to take whatever measures are necessary."

Meanwhile, NSW reported 185 new infections on Sunday, but for a fourth consecutive day, no new deaths were reported.

In Victoria, 1061 new cases were announced and four more deaths, while there were seven new infections in the ACT.

There were also four new cases detected in the Northern Territory, where the remote community of Lajamanu will stay in lockdown until December 11 after the virus was detected in wastewater.

There were no new infections in South Australia after reporting three on Saturday.

NSW, Victoria and the ACT have introduced a three-day home quarantine requirement for international arrivals.

At this stage it means travellers from Japan and South Korea can enter Australia without needing to quarantine from December 1 as planned, Trade Minister Dan Tehan said.

However, the Morrison government is keeping a watchful eye on developments surrounding the Omicron variant.

Mr Tehan told Sky News' Sunday Agenda program from Geneva that he believes the government hast got the balance right.

"But obviously there is more work to be done in understanding this new variant and the potential impacts it might have."

Mr Tehan travelled to Switzerland for a World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting, only to find it had been cancelled because of the clampdown on travellers from the southern African states.

Australian Associated Press