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Sydney reports the first death from new variant

Sydney reports the first death from new variant

People wait in line at a walk-in COVID-19 testing site at the Melbourne Town Hall in Melbourne, Australia, on December 27, 2021. Photo: IC

Australia reported its first confirmed death from the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 on Monday amid another surge in daily infections.

However, the authorities refrained from imposing new restrictions saying hospitalization rates remained low.

The death, a man in his 80s with underlying health conditions, marked a grim milestone for the country which has had to reverse some parts of a staged reopening after nearly two years of stop-start lockdowns, due to the fresh outbreak.

Omicron, which health experts say appears more contagious but less virulent than previous strains, began to spread in the country just as it lifted restrictions on most domestic borders and allowed Australians to return from overseas without quarantine, driving case numbers to the highest of the pandemic.

The authorities gave no additional details about the Omicron death, except to say that the man caught the virus at an aged care facility and died in a Sydney hospital.

“This was the first known death in New South Wales [state] linked to the Omicron variant of concern,” said Christine Selvey, an epidemiologist from the NSW Health in a video released by the government.

The man was among six COVID-19 deaths reported in Australia the previous day, all in the most populous states of NSW and Victoria, which are home to more than half the country’s 25 million population.

Australia clocked just over 9,400 new cases on Monday, slightly down from the previous day’s record but not including cases from the state of South Australia, which was yet to report its numbers.

Most new cases were in NSW and Victoria.