Australia goes into high alert as overseas arrivals bring COVID mutant strains
MELBOURNE (AUSTRALIA) – On Saturday, health officials in Australia said they are on high alert after cases of the highly infectious mutant variant of the novel coronavirus, which were discovered in Britain and South Africa, have made its way into the country.
After a virulent strain of the virus was discovered, Queensland capital Brisbane was placed under a three-day strict lockdown. It was the mutant variant from the UK which was discovered in the city. Similarly, a variant of the virus found in South Africa was detected in Sydney in a hotel quarantine.
With the detection of the new variants, the government on Friday slashed the number of travellers from abroad and made negative COVID tests mandatory for those boarding aircraft and urged more testing at local quarantine facilities.
“So long as people are travelling, the risk of the virus seeping into the community is already there,” said New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian in a press conference.
“Anything we can do to reduce that risk is really important, especially now when we understand what these strains are doing, and all the experts advise in due course that these mutated strains will become the dominant strain.”
The nation sealed its borders in March. But since then, it has been allowing a limited number of Australians to return by placing them under two weeks of mandatory hotel quarantine upon arrival.
In New South Wales, there was one case of local transmission on Saturday as the three-week lockdown is about to end for the quarter million residents in the north of Sydney following an outbreak in December.
Queensland reported a case of the Britain-linked variant last week but there were no new cases. However, officials said they could not rule out prolonging the three-day lockdown in case more infections surface.
“This is because of this new variant and because it is the first time this new variant has been out in a community anywhere in the country,” said Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young.