The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned the Asia-Pacific region faces a surge in COVID cases as the Omicron variant spreads.

Iran PressEurope: Despite shutting its borders to travel from high-risk southern African countries, Australia became the latest country to report community transmission of the new variant, a day after it was found locally in five US states.

Omicron started gaining a foothold in Asia this week, with cases reported in India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea.

Many governments have tightened travel rules to keep the new variant out, but the WHO's warning to the Asia-Pacific, a region of about 650 million people, stressed that border controls could only buy them time. 

"People should not only rely on border measures," Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for the western Pacific, told a virtual media briefing.

"What is most important is to prepare for these variants with potential high transmissibility. So far the information available suggests we don't have to change our approach."

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