HEALTH experts in the region fear coronavirus' Omicron strain is already here, in Ballarat.
Grampians Public Health Unit medical specialist Rob Grenfell confirmed genomic screening was under way on some COVID-19 tests from the region.
Dr Grenfell said such sample analysis can take time and, as such, the Grampians team was waiting to confirm whether the variant was already making its mark on the region.
"We presume like the rest of the country that the Omicron variant may already be present here...that analysis does take a period of time, but it would not surprise us if Omicron has already moved into our region as it has been moving across New South Wales," Dr Grenfell said.
Ballarat has recorded its equal highest daily, new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, with 14 new infections. This matches 14 cases in Ballarat recorded on Friday.
There are 89 active infections in Ballarat with 81 active cases in the neighbouring Moorabool Shire and a spattering of cases in other outer areas.
Our response to the coronavirus overall is to in fact is to take this as the serious disease that is is.- Dr rob Grenfell, Grampians Public Health Unit
"Our response to the coronavirus overall is to in fact is to take this as the serious disease that is is," said Dr Grenfell, who is also the CSIRO's health and biosecurity lead.
"So, new variants that come through might test our methods of controlling it but we're still maintaining the three pillars that are actually required to keep this virus under some degree of control: that is testing; that is also case identification and containment; and the third is the vaccination program.
"These will continue with as much vigour as they have over the last year."
Dr Grenfell stressed COVID-19 vaccine boosters' role was vital in tackling the unfolding circumstances.
He said, as clearly found in South Africa, people who had contracted the Delta variant were not immune to Omicron or the severity of what it could inflict.
Meanwhile, Dr Grenfell also said a highly publicised COVID-19 outbreak linked to the Greendale pub was an example of "why we need to look at taking precautions".
"If you're symptomatic, don't go out, if you do and are actually spending time with strangers in large settings that you're actually at a higher risk of contracting coronnavirus," Dr Grenfell said.
Mask-wearing, checking-in and QR codes, physical distancing and hand hygiene also remain key COVID-19 prevention tools.
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