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Two travellers from South Africa who transited in Singapore test positive for Omicron COVID-19 variant in Sydney

Two travellers from South Africa who transited in Singapore test positive for Omicron COVID-19 variant in Sydney

File photo of a Singapore Airlines flight at Sydney International airport on May 6, 2021. (Photo: AFP/Saeed Khan)

SINGAPORE: Two travellers from South Africa who transited in Singapore have tested positive for the new Omicron COVID-19 variant in Sydney.

The passengers arrived in Sydney on Singapore Airlines SQ211, which departed Singapore at 10.30am on Sunday (Nov 28) and landed in Sydney at 9.20pm the same day.

In its daily COVID-19 update, Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) said late Monday night that the travellers had departed Johannesburg, South Africa on Nov 27 via SQ481 and arrived at Changi Airport on the same day for their transit flight.

From 11.59pm on Nov 27, all long-term pass holders and short-term visitors with travel history within the last 14 days to Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe have not been allowed to enter or transit in Singapore.

MOH said the travellers' pre-departure tests in South Africa on Nov 26 were negative for COVID-19 and most of the travellers had remained in the transit area at Changi Airport until their departure for Sydney on Nov 28.

They did not enter Singapore or visit other areas in Changi Airport, added MOH. Seven people disembarked, of whom six are currently serving a 10-day stay-home notice at a dedicated facility and will be tested using polymerase chain reaction tests.

"One was a close contact of an infected individual on the flight, and has been quarantined. Contact tracing is ongoing for airport staff who may have come into transient contact with the cases," said MOH.

Earlier on Monday, the New South Wales health ministry (NSW Health) said in a media release: "Both passengers arrived in Sydney from southern Africa on Singapore Airlines flight SQ211."

They were both fully vaccinated and have been isolated in special health accommodation, NSW Health added.

"Everyone on the flight is considered a close contact and will need to get tested immediately for COVID-19 and isolate for 14 days, regardless of their vaccination status," said NSW Health.

It said that it would contact all passengers and flight crew to let them know about the isolation requirements.


In response to CNA's queries, an SIA spokesperson said the pilots and crew who operated the flight will self-isolate and get tested for COVID-19.

The spokesperson added that SIA is unable to reveal any information about the passengers because of customer confidentiality, and that it will assist health authorities in "all necessary contact tracing efforts".

"Singapore Airlines will work with the authorities, and be guided by the relevant regulatory requirements, as it ensures the health and safety of our customers and staff members," the SIA spokesperson added.

Australia opened its borders to vaccinated Singaporeans on Nov 21, after Singapore extended its vaccinated travel lane scheme to Australia earlier this month.

On Saturday, New South Wales authorities said that from Sunday, all overseas arrivals must self-isolate for at least three days.

Australia on Monday halted plans to reopen its international borders to skilled workers and students, prompted by concerns over the new Omicron variant. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Dec 1 reopening will be delayed at least two weeks.

All travellers arriving in New South Wales who have been in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, Malawi, and the Seychelles during the 14-day period before their arrival must enter hotel quarantine for 14 days, said the authorities.

There are now four confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in New South Wales.

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Source: CNA/mi(aj)