By MIRIAM ZARRIGA
OMICRON, the newest variant of the Coronavirus (Covid-19), has been detected in the country, according to National Pandemic Response Controller David Manning.
He told The National last night that the carrier was a man who travelled from South Africa last month through London and Hong Kong.
“A male traveller who departed South Africa in December, and transited through London and Hong Kong, had initially tested negative and was not displaying any symptoms when he arrived in Papua New Guinea,” he said.
“(But) a subsequent test returned as positive and the man then went into quarantine.”
Manning said the arrival of the Omicron variant in PNG had been expected and should not give any increased cause for concern as long as people took precautions and observed public health safety measures.
“The Government has been preparing for the arrival of the Omicron variant, just as we had been for the Delta variant in the middle of last year,” he said.
“Now, we are working to reduce the rate of its spread.”
Manning said given the period of the man’s travel, it was unclear when and where he contracted the Omicron strain.
“Taking into consideration that the Omicron incubation period can be as little as three days, it is likely that the man acquired the Covid-19 after he departed South Africa,” he said. “Contact tracing has been undertaken and no further close contact infections have been identified.
“But considering the timeline surrounding the man’s movements, the Government is working on the assumption that the Omicron variant is now active in Papua New Guinea.
“The Omicron variant has already swept around the world and has become the dominant strain of Covid-19, but the news is not all bad and this is not a time for panic.
“While it has been found that the Omicron variant spreads quicker than other strains, it has also been found to be less virulent, meaning that people are not getting as sick from Omicron as they were from Delta.”
He said for unvaccinated people, “their risk of serious illness or death from this variant remains very high”.
Manning said those vaccinated could still get the Covid-19 “but are very unlikely to get seriously ill and will likely just have mild symptoms like a cold”.
“The key message for our people is to not panic, but to do the right thing and reduce the speed of the spread,” he said.
“Ultimately, everyone is likely to get the Covid-19 at some point in time.
“What we can do is to get vaccinated, practise social distancing and isolate as soon as we show symptoms.
By MIRIAM ZARRIGA