UK strain now in Qld, NSW, NT and Vic

Andi Yu
·3-min read

The highly infectious UK variant of COVID-19 has made its way into several Australian jurisdictions.

While Greater Brisbane residents are under a strict three-day lockdown because of a locally acquired UK variant case, NSW, Victoria and the Northern Territory have all revealed UK-acquired cases in hotel quarantine.

In Victoria, a woman who flew into Melbourne from London on December 26 tested positive for the UK strain and was released on day 10 after being medically cleared.

She tested positive again on Friday in her home state of Queensland, but results indicate she is no longer infectious.

"You can continue to shed virus for up to 120 days after you're no longer infectious," Victorian health minister Martin Foley said.

Despite Victorian health authorities acting in line with protocol at the time, the national cabinet which met on Friday has since agreed to keep those who test positive for the UK strain in quarantine for 14 days regardless of a lack of infectiousness.

NSW Health on Saturday revealed a traveller who arrived in Sydney on December 21 tested positive with the UK strain and was discharged from quarantine on January 5.

Genomic testing indicating they had the UK strain was received two days later on January 7, prompting a re-test. The person tested positive but results indicated they had low levels of infection.

The individual was returned to special health accommodation as a precaution and the locations they have visited have been added to NSW Health's list of exposure sites.

In the NT, a woman who arrived from London on December 30 tested positive for the UK strain and remains in quarantine. No fellow passengers or crew on her flight have tested positive.

On Friday, the national cabinet made key decisions to guard Australia against highly infectious mutant strains of the coronavirus now spreading around the world.

The cabinet adopted several new measures around flight travel, including the introduction of pre-flight testing of returning Australians, while masks will be mandatory on all domestic and international flights and at airports.

International arrivals will also be reduced to NSW, Queensland and Western Australia until February 15, rather than blocking flights from certain countries.

The closing off of international flights was considered at the meeting but Mr Morrison said this was not recommended by the national cabinet because Australia still needs to function with vaccines and other critical supplies needed to be flown in.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Saturday Australians should assume mutated COVID-19 variants emanating from the United Kingdom and South Africa will become the world's dominant strains due to their contagiousness.

She also said mask usage is likely to be mandatory in the state for the foreseeable future.

Greater Brisbane residents remain in lockdown until 6pm Monday, while other states and territories have placed restrictions on travel to and from the area.

Restrictions imposed since before Christmas on suburbs north of Narrabeen Bridge on the NSW northern beaches will be lifted from Sunday.

On Saturday there were 11 new virus cases recorded nationally - six in NSW, three in SA and one each in Victoria and WA. All but one locally acquired case in Sydney are returned travellers in hotel quarantine.

For Victoria, it was the third consecutive day of no locally acquired cases and the government has said it is confident about ring-fencing the Black Rock cluster which numbers 27 cases.