/Expert warns of potentially dangerous COVID-19 variants | 7NEWS

Expert warns of potentially dangerous COVID-19 variants | 7NEWS

A new strain of COVID-19 has healthcare professionals on high alert after it was detected for the first time on Australian shores.

After more than 1000 days since Australia’s first COVID case was detected in Australia, many of the country’s pandemic restrictions have been lifted.

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However, health experts are warning the pandemic is still far from over after two new and potentially dangerous variants were detected.

The new XBB variant first emerged in Singapore, and its transmission, while currently at low levels, has now reached NSW and Victoria.

Infectious diseases physician Doctor Paul Griffin told Sunrise there were many new subvariants they are “watching closely”.

“Some have described it as a ‘variant soup’, because there are so many new ones at the moment,” he said.

“Perhaps the two most concerning are BQ which is an offshoot of BA5, which has been detected mainly in Europe and the US, and around 10 per cent of cases globally.

“And the other is XBB which has been causing problems in Singapore and India.”

Griffin said both of these variants looked “a bit” more infectious than the preceding variants that they’ve watched closely.

“They may also be better at evading our immune response both from past infection and from vaccination, so it certainly highlights that the pandemic is not over,” he said.

Griffin added while there was currently no indication these variants caused severe disease, they do appear to be more infectious.

“For this reason, it’s really important that we’re up-to-date with our vaccines, including our new improved Omicron-specific booster that’s now available in our country,” he said.

Meanwhile, a statement from NSW Health said the BA4 and BA5 Omicron strains are still the most common, but their dominance is on the decline.

“We will be closely monitoring the emergence of variants and other international and local data over the next seven to 14 days to assess the growth potential of the new variants in the context of the NSW population immunity profile,” NSW Health said.

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