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Qld case tests positive to super virus strain

An extremely contagious variant of COVID-19 that has locked down South Africa has been identified for the first time in Australia. A returning traveller tested positive to the virus in a Queensland hotel quarantine facility on December 22.Further genome sequencing shows the woman had the new variant of COVID-19, identified as 501. V2, thought to…

An extremely contagious variant of COVID-19 that has locked down South Africa has been identified for the first time in Australia.

A returning traveller tested positive to the virus in a Queensland hotel quarantine facility on December 22.

Further genome sequencing shows the woman had the new variant of COVID-19, identified as 501. V2, thought to be more contagious than other strains.

She was immediately transferred to the Sunshine Coast University Hospital.

Queensland recorded two new cases in hotel quarantine on Tuesday, as the state marked its 105th day of no community cases.

The variant detected in the returned traveller is one of two new “super-contagious” strains that have recently emerged, originating from South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Both countries have gone back into varying stages of lockdown in a bid to kerb the spread of the super strains.

Queensland’s chief health officer, Dr Jeanette Young, said officials had “double checked” no one else had been exposed to the returning traveller.

She labelled the two variants as “extremely concerning”.

Dr Young said as increased cases are reported across the world, more cases are being detected in hotel quarantine, causing her to double down on the state’s the hard-line approach for international arrivals.

“We don’t want the 5 million Queenslanders out there (to get COVID-19),” she said.

“The risk has escalated.

“We are seeing increased cases of COVID-19 across the world, increased cases in the people returning to Australia from overseas, and we are seeing two new variants I find extremely concerning.

“We cannot allow people to quarantine elsewhere other than a hotel quarantine or in hospital.”

In South Africa, where the new strain has rapidly spread throughout the country, tough restrictions have been reintroduced as the country passed the one million case mark.

According to the BBC, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the country was at an “extremely dangerous point” in the pandemic, and stricter action needed to be taken – including an alcohol sales ban in a bid to free up hospital beds from drunken injuries and car crashes.

South Africans will also be placed under a strict curfew between 9pm and 6am, and gatherings have been restricted after reaching a daily average of 11,700 new cases last week, up 39 per cent from the previous week.

The UK, which is facing at least six weeks of lockdown after a new variant was linked to a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases, banned travel from South Africa earlier this week.

The UK reported 41,385 cases on Monday, its highest single day figure.

Back in Queensland, viral fragments have been detected in five treatment plants in greater Brisbane, including at Victoria Point, Goodna and Redcliffe, as well as in North Cairns and Nambour.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said authorities did not know if those findings were the consequence of new cases, developing cases, or old cases still shedding the virus.

“Given the positive results from NSW, it is important people continue to get tested if they experience symptoms,” she said.

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