Qld finds virus variant, NSW party lashed

·3-min read

The first imported case of a particularly contagious South African variant of COVID-19 has been detected in Queensland's hotel quarantine system.

The female patient, who arrived in Queensland on December 22, has been transported from hotel quarantine to Sunshine Coast University Hospital.

"We are absolutely confident that all proper measures were taken at the hotel, in the transfer and of course at the hospital in relation to this positive case," Health Minister Yvette D'Ath told reporters on Tuesday.

The federal immigration minister, meanwhile, has threatened deportation for those who breached NSW COVID-19 rules to attend large parties in Sydney over the Christmas period.

Alex Hawke said he was shocked by the party hosted on Christmas Day at Bronte Beach, where the crowd breached social distancing and other rules imposed due to a virus outbreak on Sydney's northern beaches.

Some of the party are believed to be backpackers who remained in Australia during the coronavirus pandemic, or expatriates mostly from the UK.

The Department of Home Affairs is working with NSW authorities in the lead-up to the new year to make sure people do the right thing, Mr Hawke said.

But the federal opposition doubted Mr Hawke could follow through on his threat because of the pandemic and global border restrictions.

"His government has had enough trouble deporting a few convicted criminals, let alone hundreds of backpackers," Labor immigration spokeswoman Kristina Keneally told AAP on Tuesday.

"These kinds of empty threats can actually do more harm than good and I would encourage the minister to make sure his department can actually do what he says."

At present people in Australia can be fined or face potential jail sentences for breaches of health orders.

NSW is attempting to suppress the mystery outbreak on the northern breaches, which has grown to a cluster of 129 cases.

The area will remain in lockdown into the new year after three new community transmission cases were confirmed in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday.

A plan to give frontline coronavirus workers from around NSW prime seats to watch Sydney's famous harbour New Year's Eve fireworks has been cancelled.

Victoria on Tuesday marked 60 days without any cases of community transmission after winning the battle against a second-wave outbreak earlier this year.

In additional attempts to keep the virus out, Western Australia on Tuesday bolstered security in its hotel quarantine system.

Physical barriers to stop people leaving hotels will be improved and hotel quarantine security guards granted new powers.

The changes come after the escape of a woman who failed to complete her 14 days in supervised isolation. She has since been charged with failing to comply with public health orders, and has tested COVID negative.

"Just as the COVID-19 virus is constantly changing, we are also constantly adapting our systems to keep the virus at bay," WA Health Minister Roger Cook told reporters on Tuesday.

NSW recorded six new virus cases in hotel quarantine on Tuesday, Queensland uncovered two and Northern Territory recorded a case in a cattle ship crewman now in isolation in a Darwin hospital.