Australia live news updates: nation on alert over Omicron Covid strain; five coronavirus deaths in Victoria; Warragamba Dam spills amid flood warnings

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Australia live news updates: nation on alert over Omicron Covid strain; five coronavirus deaths in Victoria; Warragamba Dam spills amid flood warnings
© Photograph: WaterNSW WaterNSW confirmed this morning that Warragamba Dam started spilling shortly after 9pm last night.

LIVE – Updated at 22:23

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22:23

New South Wales double-dose vaccination rates have hit 94.5% for people over 16.

For those 12-15, the rates are also increasing rapidly. 81.2% have had a single dose; 76.2% are fully vaccinated.

Victoria’s numbers are for all people, aged 12 and over. They hit the 90% double-dose rate earlier this week.

NSW reports 235 new Covid cases

22:20

New South Wales has recorded 235 new cases and zero deaths.

NSW #COVID19 update – Saturday 27 November 2021

In the 24-hour reporting period to 8pm last night:

– 94.5% of people aged 16+ have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

– 92.3% of people aged 16+ have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine pic.twitter.com/9LzA47vls3

— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) November 26, 2021

Five Covid deaths and 1,252 cases in Victoria

22:15

Victoria has recorded 1,252 new Covid-19 cases and five deaths.

We thank everyone who got vaccinated and tested yesterday.

Our thoughts are with those in hospital, and the families of people who have lost their lives.

More data soon: https://t.co/OCCFTAtS1P#COVID19Vic #COVID19VicData pic.twitter.com/149ZChvte8

— VicGovDH (@VicGovDH) November 26, 2021

 

22:04 Peter Hannam

With so much rain in recent weeks and widespread falls in lately there are many flood alerts current in NSW.

Warragamba Dam is spilling this morning at a peak rate of about 60-80 gigalitres a day.

That pace, though, is well shy of the 500GL (or about one Sydney Harbour) that spilled at the height of the March floods.

And the rain should ease up today and for a few days so any flooding on Sydney’s outskirts should be minor for now at least.

 

21:54

Here’s a helpful explainer – everything you need to know about Omicron.

Related: Omicron: everything you need to know about new Covid variant

 

21:54

There’s also some news around for football fans this morning. If the Socceroos end up (as looks likely) finishing third in their World Cup qualifying group, the path to Qatar next year will go through a playoff with a South American country.

At this stage that could be Colombia, Uruguay, Chile or Peru. They’re all good. We are … well, not blessed with our best ever generation of players, frankly.

But then again, who cares about the men’s side when the Matildas have their best ever crop. They play the USA in a friendly this afternoon. Here’s hoping Sam Kerr is passed fit.

 

21:24

The Queensland human rights commissioner, Scott McDougall, says the commission has received a spike in inquiries due to confusion about the state’s Covid border rules.

McDougall said that in the past few weeks, since the Queensland government announced its plans to reopen the state border, more than a third of inquiries had been about Covid issues as a lack of detail had “created a vacuum where misinformation is able to be spread”.

“We’re very much aware of the confusion and the lack of clarity for people trying to make sense of our border reopening plans,” McDougall told Guardian Australia.

“Since they were announced a couple of weeks ago Covid issues have been the subject of over a third of all our inquiries – at times nudging 40% – and almost all those are in relation to the restrictions after borders reopen.

Related: Queensland Human Rights Commission flooded with inquiries due to Covid border confusion

 

21:20

Given the emergence of Omicron, it’s worth reflecting on this piece from Nyasha Chingono about how some of southern Africa’s “white garment” churches have undermined vaccination rollouts.

Related: ‘We are protected by prayers’: the sects hampering southern Africa’s vaccine rollout

 

21:16

We should hear more about the Australian government’s response to Omicron later today.

Meanwhile the European Centres for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has followed the World Health Organisation and classified it a “variant of concern”.

A report published by the ECDC says: “[It] is the most divergent variant that has been detected in significant numbers during the pandemic so far, which raises concerns that it may be associated with increased transmissibility, significant reduction in vaccine effectiveness and increased risk for reinfections.”

 

20:53

Good morning everyone and welcome to Saturday. This is Ben Smee in Brisbane bringing you the weekend version of Guardian Australia’s live news blog.

As always, there’s a bit to get through.

All eyes are on Australia’s reaction to the new and stronger Covid variant threatening to spread from southern Africa.

The latest variant, given the name Omicron by the World Health Organisation and listed as a variant of concern on Saturday morning, first emerged in Botswana and has been detected in South Africa, Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium.

It has double the number of mutations as the Delta variant that sparked a third wave of outbreaks and lockdowns in Australia this year.

Australian health minister Greg Hunt previously said “the world is looking and learning about the strain … if the medical advice is that we need to change, we won’t hesitate.”

Parts of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria are on flood watch for the second weekend in a row. A Queensland man died in floodwaters yesterday, and authorities have issued some fairly serious warnings. Severe thunderstorms are likely to lash most of the east coast.

WaterNSW confirmed this morning that Warragamba Dam started spilling shortly after 9pm last night.

“Preliminary estimates are that the spillway outflow could peak at a rate of approximately 100 gigalitres per day (GL/day), one-fifth of the March spill event that peaked at 500GL/day.

“Inflows to the dam storage are rising as a result of multiple recent rain events, with latest rates of >38 GL/day expected to rise and showers to persist.”

It’s Saturday, so that can only mean one thing. That’s right, it’s anti-vaccination rally day. There are a few protest marches scheduled, including the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast and Canberra. We’re not expecting anything on the same scale as last weekend, but will keep you abreast of anything relevant.

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