First proof latest COVID variant has reached Australia found in Melbourne effluent sample

Testing sewage has once again proved its worth for identifying COVID's latest variants.

Testing sewage has once again proved its worth for identifying COVID's latest variants. Photo: Getty

A new COVID-19 sub-variant has been detected in Victorian wastewater as virus case numbers across the country remain stubbornly high.

More than 23,000 infections were reported in NSW and Victoria on Saturday morning along with a further 26 virus-related deaths.

This follows almost 47,000 cases and 34 fatalities reported nationally on Friday.

Meanwhile, Victorian authorities are monitoring the new BA.4 or BA.5 Omicron variant after samples were confirmed in a Tullamarine catchment, north of Melbourne.

The sub-variant has been recently detected in a small number of COVID-19 cases in South Africa, Botswana, Belgium, Denmark, the UK and Germany.

The World Health Organisation says there are currently no known significant epidemiological differences between the new Omicron strain and the more dominant BA.2 strain.

“There is no cause for alarm with the emergence of the new sub-variants,” WHO regional director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti said this week in a statement.

“We are not yet observing a major spike in cases, hospitalisations or deaths.”

Labor’s Bowen in isolation

In other COVID news, the coronavirus has forced Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen to temporarily abandon the campaign trail after testing positive to COVID-19.

Mr Bowen confirmed the news via social media, saying he would spend the next seven days in isolation.

“I was looking forward to a few days campaigning in regional Queensland and Brisbane but it isn’t to be,” he tweeted on Saturday.

“Can’t wait to get back on the trail with our magnificent candidates and make an Albanese government a reality.”

It comes after Labor’s home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally and Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews contracted the virus earlier this week.


  • NSW: 13,601 cases, 18 deaths, 1491 in hospital, 72 in ICU
  • Victoria: 9559 cases, eight deaths, 403 in hospital, 21 in ICU
  • Northern Territory: 391 cases, no deaths, 28 in hospital, none in ICU
  • Tasmania: 1334 cases, no deaths, 48 in hospital, one in ICU
  • Queensland: 5878 cases, one death, 538 in hospital, 22 in ICU
  • South Australia: 3749 cases, one death, 223 in hospital, eight in ICU
  • Western Australia: 6314 cases, seven historical deaths, 205 in hospital, eight in ICU
  • ACT: 856 cases, no deaths, 60 in hospital, two in ICU
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