Australia locks down the city of 2 million over a single case of new COVID variant

Brisbane, Australia — Australia’s third-largest metropolis headed into lockdown and borders have been set to tighten nationwide Friday after a cleaner at a quarantined resort contracted the U.Okay. coronavirus pressure that officers say is extra infectious. Greater than two million residents within the Higher Brisbane space should keep at dwelling for at the very least three days from Friday night, authorities mentioned.

“If we’re going to cease the unfold of this infectious pressure, this U.Okay. pressure, we should act instantly,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk instructed media.

Massive strains fashioned at retailers across the metropolis, prompting officers to induce individuals to cease panic-buying. The incoming restrictions will nonetheless enable residents to depart dwelling to purchase necessities.

On Brisbane’s central buying strip, Queen Avenue Mall, individuals voiced broad help for the measures – eager to keep away from the hovering case numbers seen because the variant takes maintain in Britain.

Andy McPhee, 51, a Brisbane resident who works for a world agency, mentioned the lockdown paled compared to what his colleagues abroad have been experiencing.

“I do not suppose a three-day lockdown goes to harm us in any respect. I feel it is crucial to stamp out the virus,” McPhee instructed AFP. “One case turns into two and two instances change into 10 so earlier than you already know it, it could possibly get a bit uncontrolled.”

British officers have mentioned the variant, which first triggered warnings within the U.Okay. final month, seems to be between 50% and 70% extra infectious than different COVID-19 strains extra generally detected in Australia.

The a number of U.Okay. and South African variant instances have been detected in vacationers at present underneath necessary quarantine in Australia in current weeks.

However the Queensland case was the primary to be contracted regionally and is believed to have unfold to a cleaner from a returning traveler isolating in a Brisbane quarantine resort.

New guidelines nationwide

The town’s lockdown signaled a return of restrictions unseen since March. Residents have been ordered to remain dwelling and instructed to put on masks when leaving for important causes solely.

Following the announcement, authorities across the nation restricted journey to and from Brisbane and tightened already powerful guidelines on worldwide arrivals.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison mentioned all worldwide vacationers would now be required to bear testing earlier than flying to Australia.

The already low variety of arrivals would even be briefly diminished by 50 % and a 14-day necessary quarantine for all vacationers can be retained.

The brand new strains

“There are lots of unknowns and uncertainties in relation to the brand new pressure, and in order that’s why this precautionary method, we consider, could be very wise,” Morrison mentioned.

Researchers are scrambling to find out simply how rather more contagious the British variant — often known as B.1.1.7 — is. Information outdoors Britain is restricted.

One other key query is whether or not current vaccines work towards the brand new pressure, with Pfizer on Friday reporting that preliminary findings have been constructive and the vaccines did seem to work.

Summer season regular interrupted

Earlier than the announcement, Brisbane was amongst a number of Australian cities having fun with a return to relative normality through the southern hemisphere’s summer season.

The state of Queensland recorded no new instances of group transmission on Friday.

However current outbreaks in Sydney and Melbourne had compelled journey throughout state borders to be tightly restricted once more amid mounting stress on officers to hasten the vaccine’s rollout.

On Thursday, Morrison introduced plans to convey ahead the deliberate vaccine rollouts by weeks. They’re now slated to start in February.

Australia has recorded greater than 28,500 COVID-19 instances and 909 deaths linked to the virus, in a inhabitants of about 25 million.

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