Qld on high alert over mutant UK strain
Queensland health authorities are on high alert after a mutant, super-spreading strain of COVID-19 was found in Australia.
A woman, whose husband was forced into home quarantine after being identified as a close contact of the COVID-infected person who attended The Glen Hotel last Wednesday, told The Courier-Mail that a Queensland Health contact tracer had sounded the alarm over the new UK strain, which is feared to be 70 per cent more contagious.
A Queensland Health spokesperson yesterday said that authorities were concerned about "all variations of COVID-19".
"We knew from the start that this pandemic would be a rapidly evolving situation with many challenges, and we are prepared," the spokesperson said.
"This is why we have mandatory hotel quarantine in place - to keep this virus out of Queensland."
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant yesterday said she was concerned about the highly-infectious strain and confirmed two returned travellers from the UK in hotel quarantine had tested positive for the mutant variation, but said it had not been detected in the 83 cases in the Sydney cluster, or in Queensland.
The mutant strain has wreaked havoc in the UK, forcing London and the UK's southeast into its strictest lockdown rules since the beginning of the pandemic.
UK Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said the new variant was responsible for 60 per cent of infections in London in December, which have nearly doubled in the past week. France and Denmark yesterday joined a growing list of countries imposing travel restrictions on the UK, suspending all flows of people from there for 48 hours.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia would follow medical advice on the UK strain but added there were "no plans to go down the path" of banning UK flights.
The woman told The Courier-Mail that her husband - who attended The Glen Hotel in Eight Mile Plains last Wednesday but had since tested negative for COVID-19 - was directed to self-isolate at home until December 30 as a result of being in close contact of a confirmed case. That is a condition of normal quarantine requirements.
But she said the contact tracer mentioned authorities feared "a new more dangerous strain of COVID-19 could be in Australia".
"We fully support the strong stance the Queensland Premier has taken to keep us safe. She's done a remarkable job," the woman said.
Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young yesterday confirmed there were 26 close contacts of Northern Beaches COVID-19 cases in Queensland. Of those, 20 had returned negative results with all in either home or hotel quarantine.
Dr Young again called for anyone who had been at The Glen Hotel on December 16 to come forward and get tested. She said 560 people had already come forward but authorities were unsure if everyone who had been at the venue had done so.
As part of the crackdown on businesses still using paper-based check-in systems, Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said 20 teams of compliance officers would check electronic register use.
It comes as Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt rubbished Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's call for a national cabinet meeting if the NSW outbreak worsened.
National cabinet met multiple times a week at the height of the COVID-19 crisis but the gatherings have tapered off as case numbers were brought under control.
While the next meeting is scheduled for February, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has said she would push for a meeting to be convened if the NSW situation continued to escalate.
But Mr Hunt has resisted calls for an emergency meeting, saying the nation's medical expert panel was already meeting daily to monitor the situation.
"There's daily engagement between the commonwealth and all of the states through the medical expert panel and we continue to work with colleagues, we continue to provide commonwealth support."
Originally published as Qld on high alert over mutant UK strain