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Victoria records 1240 new COVID cases, four deaths

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Victoria recorded 1240 new coronavirus cases and four deaths on Sunday, as infectious disease experts warned failure to take simple steps to avoid transmission of the Omicron variant could result in drastic measures later.

There are 392 people in hospital with the virus, with 41 on a ventilator. Of those in intensive care, 81 have an active case of the virus and 37 have been cleared of a COVID infection.

NSW reached cases on 2566 on Sunday, significantly higher than the 595 reported last Sunday. More than 10,000 people have contracted COVID-19 in the past five days in NSW.

The COVID-19 testing line at Albert Park.Credit:Joe Armao

In Victoria, more than 76,000 tests were completed on Saturday, with 7350 vaccinations administered at state-run centres.

Victoria now has 13,093 active cases of the virus.

Health authorities have found 19 cases of the Omicron variant in Victoria, six acquired within Australia.

The head of the epidemiological modelling unit at Monash University, James Trauer, says authorities may need to reconsider whether it will be safe to hold future large events, such as the Australian Open in January, due to the spread of the Omicron variant.

Health authorities have found 19 cases of the Omicron variant in Victoria, with just six acquired within Australia.

Associate Professor Trauer said that if COVID-19 cases surged and hospitalisations increased, measures other than lockdowns might have to be employed to reduce the pressure on the health system.

“I feel a bit of a sense at the moment that we’ve got our heads in the sand a little bit about what’s happening with Omicron,” Professor Trauer said.

He said it was necessary “to shift our mindset” and realise that it may not be a normal summer, particularly in places like New South Wales and Victoria.

A Victorian government spokesman said there were no plans to impose new capacity limits or cancel major events such as the Australian Open or the Boxing Day Test.

Genomic sequencing continues for a growing COVID-19 cluster connected to two popular bars in Melbourne’s inner north, with cases emerging after a person with the Omicron variant went to the venues.

There have been 16 COVID-19 cases linked to The Peel Hotel in Collingwood and 14 confirmed cases connected to Sircuit Bar in Fitzroy since the nightclubs became exposure sites last weekend.

Just one of the cases in the cluster has so far been confirmed as the new variant of concern.

According to the World Health Organisation, the Omicron variant has already been detected in 89 countries and is spreading rapidly.

The number of COVID-19 cases involving Omicron is doubling every 1.5 to 3 days in countries where there is community transmission of the variant and not just people who were infected abroad, WHO said.

Nations across Europe are reimposing tougher measures to stem a new wave of COVID-19 infections spurred by the highly transmissible variant, with the Netherlands leading the way by imposing a nationwide lockdown.

With Aisha Dow, James Massola and AP

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