Inside QLD’s scramble to contain contagious mutant COVID
Australia's first case of a mutant South African strain of COVID-19 that's believed to be more contagious has been detected in Queensland.
Authorities have raced to double-check all protocols were adhered to by health staff when they were in contact with the Queensland woman, who flew into Brisbane from South Africa on December 22.
But Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said all staff had complied with the strict measures while reassuring Queenslanders the case posed a very low risk to the community.
The new strain is different to another variant recently detected in the United Kingdom.
Overseas travellers flying to Queensland have been warned they should expect to undergo 14 days in hotel quarantine with health authorities granting fewer exemptions as cases continue to erupt around the world.
The Federal Government is monitoring the situation but is not considering completely blocking flights from the UK and South Africa at the moment, with borders already all but shut and mandatory hotel quarantine required for all incoming international arrivals.
Health Minister Greg Hunt this week said Australia had "the most rigorous entry limitations in the world".
Queensland Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said this was the first positive case of the South African variant in Australia.
"We are absolutely confident that all proper measures were taken at the hotel and in the transfer and of course at the hospital in relation to this positive case," she said.
Ms D'Ath said the case reaffirmed how important it was that Queensland maintained its strong hotel quarantine program.
It comes as Queensland recorded two new cases of COVID-19 yesterday - both acquired overseas and detected in hotel quarantine.
"Anyone coming from overseas should expect that they will have to spend their 14 days in hotel quarantine or in hospital, that very few exemptions will be granted because we are seeing an increased risk based on the positive cases overseas and the number of positive cases we are now … returned to Australia and of course this new variant," Ms D'ath said.
"So we do ask that people who are travelling from overseas understand that those are the requirements, of course they can make application but they should expect that they would be spending the 14 days in quarantine."
Dr Young said genome sequencing had revealed the woman had the new variant, which is thought to be more contagious.
"We've just gone back and double checked in the hotel, in the transfer and ambulance and now in the hospital she's in - she's in the Sunshine Coast University Hospital - that there have been no concerns and we haven't found any concerns there," she said.
University of Queensland Infectious Diseases and microbiologist Associate Professor Paul Griffin said while it was certainly possible the UK and South African strains were more infectious, there was not yet enough clinical data to confirm.
"I think the main thing to point out is the biggest determinant of transmission with this virus is it's not necessarily which strain it is but people who are susceptible coming into contact with people who are infectious," he said.
"If we can have good measures to prevent that like robust hotel quarantine and social distancing and hand hygiene then we'll be able to reduce transmission irrespective of which strain it is.
"Certainly something for us to observe but not something to panic about."
Meanwhile health authorities will reassess Queensland's hard border closure to greater Sydney on January 8, however Dr Young yesterday said there were unlinked cases in NSW.
Originally published as Inside QLD's scramble to contain super-contagious mutant COVID