Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has backed Queensland’s decision to declare a weekend lockdown in the Greater Brisbane area following the confirmation of a case of the highly infectious UK strain of Covid-19.
The announcement came on Friday as Morrison, premiers and first ministers were about to meet by video conference to discus the UK strain at an emergency national cabinet meeting.
Morrison tweeted it was a “wise call” by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to have a brief lockdown to enable Queensland health authorities to get on top of the UK strain case in Brisbane.
“A big thanks in advance to everyone in greater Brisbane for their patience in coming days,” he said.
“This will buy much needed time.”
Palaszczuk said the Greater Brisbane region would be in lockdown from 6pm on Friday until 6pm on Monday (local time) after a cleaner at a quarantine hotel was diagnosed with the UK variant.
Masks will also be mandatory for those needing to go outside in this area.
“It is incredibly important in this time to stop the spread of this infectious UK strain, we must act immediately, we must act strongly and we have taken those strong measures today,” the premier told reporters.
Morrison brought forward the national cabinet meeting a month earlier than initially planned to discuss the UK virus which has caused a sharp rise in cases in England.
Medical experts will present a detailed report on the UK virus which is 70 per cent more infectious than other strains.
“Given the extremely infectious and contagious nature of this new, this UK variant, it is very important we do everything we can,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters.
He is confident Victorian-backed measures including mandatory flight crew quarantine and daily hotel quarantine staff testing will be adopted.
“From bitter experience, Victorians would urge and recommend to every single government across the nation our plan,” he said.
Also on the agenda will be state and territory involvement in the rollout of vaccines, which is set to start in February.
The Australian government is hopeful a network of vaccination hubs will be able to deliver it to four million Australians by the end of March.
The first people to be vaccinated will be quarantine and border workers, frontline health officials, aged care and disability workers and aged care residents.
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the success of the vaccine will require at least two thirds of the nation to be vaccinated, but reiterated it will be voluntary and free.
“We are looking at as many as possible and we really will be encouraging everyone to come forward and have that vaccination,” he told Sky News.
Queensland reported nine new Covid-19 cases in hotel quarantine, while Victoria reported a sole case, also in quarantine.
NSW is expected to record at least one new case linked to the northern beaches cluster, an infection that was discovered after the usual cut off period the day before.
The case triggered new coronavirus alerts for a supermarket and discount chemist in Avalon where the man shopped between January 2 and 6.