NSW records 286 COVID-19 cases amid further Omicron infections

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NSW has recorded 286 cases of COVID-19 including two new cases of the Omicron variant,bringing the total number of cases with the strain in Sydney to 15.

Health authorities expect to identify further Omicron cases in south-west Sydney later on Sunday,with five cases of the variant already linked to a cluster spanning Regents Park Christian School,Sydney Indoor Climbing Gym Villawood and St Peter Chanel Catholic Primary School in Regents Park.

There have been 13 Omicron cases linked to a cluster at Regents Park Christian School.

There have been 13 Omicron cases linked to a cluster at Regents Park Christian School.Nine News

NSW Health is tracing the genome sequence of several COVID-19 cases linked to those locations,but believes the virus spread between them via a student from St Peter Chanel who attended the Villawood climbing gym on Saturday,November 27. Another confirmed case who attended the climbing gym has been detected in the ACT.

Anyone who was at the climbing centre on November 27 between 9am and 4pm is considered a close contact and must immediately get tested and isolate.

All year three and year four students and teachers at St Peter Chanel Catholic Primary School are also in isolation;at least three of the school students have been infected with the Omicron variant and genome sequencing is under way for other cases.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt on Sunday morning confirmed children aged 5 to 11 will start receiving coronavirus vaccines from January 10,after provisional approvalwas granted for the younger age group.

Sunday,December 5:Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced the approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years. The provisional expected date for access to these vaccines is 10 January,2022.

“Our provisional expectation,at this stage,is that we’ve been able to bring forward the commencement of the pediatric doses or the children’s doses to January 10,” Mr Hunt said on Sunday.

“So that’s our provisional date. But the message for Australians is very clear. From January 10,Australian children will have access to Pfizer vaccines and it’s recommended for children right across Australia. It’s about keeping our kids safe,keeping our families safe and keeping Australians safe.”

Deputy Therapeutic Goods Administration Secretary Professor John Skerritt said some children who received the vaccine had shown similar reactions to adults - such as tiredness,sore arms and head aches. But those symptoms were brief and fairly short compared to adults.

“We’re often asked why vaccinate kids because kids do not get generally as sick as adults,” he said.

“There’s 2.3 million kids in this age group and a sobering statistic is a bit over a fifth of all cases of COVID are actually in the under-12s. Some of the early data with Omicron suggests that may actually be higher for[the] Omicron variant. So our under 12s who are currently unvaccinated do catch COVID.

“Now while most kids do get a fairly mild infection,and only a limited number end up in ICU,which is great,there are bigger impacts,unfortunately. About one in 3000[of] the kids who get COVID-19 actually ended up with this funny immunological condition called multi-system inflammatory condition. Those kids can end up being very sick for months.”

Professor Skerritt said that was not the same as long COVID-19 but involved a range of symptoms that affected children. “That’s one of the things we’re protecting against by vaccinating children,” he said.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation will soon recommend how to space out the vaccine doses for the younger age group.

In NSW,94.6 per cent of people aged above 16 have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 92.8 per cent of people have had both doses.

The state’s 286 cases were detected from 66,671 tests,and Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant on Saturday said she remained concerned aboutrising virus infections in the city.

Although the state’s case numbers have remained relatively stable over the past month,their source has shifted from regional clusters,such as October’s Albury outbreak and the Moree cluster,to community transmission in the capital.

The majority of Sunday’s cases (236) were in Sydney:82 in the south-west,51 in south-east Sydney,45 in the Sydney local health district,40 from western Sydney and 18 from northern Sydney.

“It’s been so pleasing to see the stabilisation of cases in regional NSW ...[but] we are starting to see an uptick in cases in metropolitan Sydney,so please continue to go out and get tested;take those simple measures to keep you and your loved one’s safe,” Dr Chant said on Saturday.

A man in his 60s from south-eastern Sydney died with the virus on Sunday. He was double-vaccinated and had underlying health conditions.

There are 148 people in the state’s hospitals,26 of whom are in intensive care and five of whom are ventilated.

No cases with the Omicron variant have yet been admitted to hospital in NSW for COVID-19 treatment.

Natassia Chrysanthos is the education reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

Roy Ward is a sports writer,live blogger and breaking news journalist. He's been writing for The Age since 2010.

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