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Omicron Covid-19 variant: Compulsory masks in offices, QR codes, warns Catherine Bennett

Masks could once again be made compulsory in offices and QR codes return to most venues with the emergence of new 'super-mutant' Covid-19 variant Omicron, a leading expert has warned.

The new strain from southern Africa has made its way to Australia's shores with a third traveller in Sydney suspected to have come down with the virus, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet confirmed on Monday. 

Professor Catherine Bennett, the chair of epidemiology at Deakin University, told Daily Mail Australia the nation may have to become used to ‘dial up, dial down’ controls if more cases emerge.

That may involve the return of masks in all indoor settings - include workplaces - and and QR codes. 

Precautions have already been implemented in response to 'super-mutant' Covid-19 variant Omicron hitting Australia's shores (pictured passengers undergoing testing at Sydney International Airport on Sunday)

'Similar to what happened with Delta strain, we could see restrictions dialled up again as a precaution,' Professor Bennett told Daily Mail Australia.

'Options could be masks in indoor settings, including offices to prevent transmission.'

'But I don't see anything more dramatic. At the end of the day, this is what living with the virus is all about.'

It comes as NSW just last week announced masks would only be compulsory on public transport and in a few limited high risk settings once the state hits 95 per cent double vaccinated or on December 15.

QR codes were will only be required for high risk venues such as pubs, small bars, registered clubs and nightclubs and for indoor music festivals.

Masks wearing in Victoria are also set to be scrapped in retail settings on December 15 but will remain mandatory at health services, aged care, retail, on public transport and for primary school staff, visitors and students in years three to six.

We may have to become used to ‘dial up, dial down’ controls such as the wearing of masks in office workplaces

QR codes may also be among ‘dial up, dial down’ controls (pictured patron checking into Melbourne's Princess Theatre)

Professor Bennett agreed with the approach Australia has taken in recent days in response to the new strain and says we shouldn't be alarmed.

'They're wise precautions, until we learn more,' Professor Bennett said.

'Not pushing everyone into hotel quarantine and focusing on the travellers of the highest risk is a good thing.'

While it's still early days, Professor Bennett believes there's hope the variant may cause a more benign infection than highly contagious Delta which plunged Australia's two biggest cities into lockdown for months.

She's reassured by reports from the South African Medical Association Omicronis showing a different pattern of symptoms and a milder disease than with other strains, especially in the vaccinated.

'We know most people who develop severe disease often don’t develop those symptoms until the second week of infection, but so far hospitals are not being overwhelmed and, if symptoms are resolving quickly,' Professor Bennett wrote in a piece for the Sydney Morning Herald.

'On the upside, if this or future strains do out-compete Delta, or whatever the dominant variant of the time is, but cause less severe disease, then we might be taking a significant step along our path to endemicity.

Professor Catherine Bennett (pictured) has warned mandatory masks could return to indoor settings as a precaution untilmore is known about the Omicron strain