Australia reports its first case of South Africa coronavirus variant

Australia has become the latest country to confirm the presence of the new South African coronavirus variant.

A woman travelling from overseas, who arrived in Queensland on 22 December, tested positive while in hotel quarantine. She is now being treated in hospital.

Queensland Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D’Ath announced the discovery in a live COVID-19 update.

She said: “We can report also today that it has been identified one overseas individual who arrived in Queensland on 22 December has tested positive for the new South African variant. This will be the first positive case of the South African variant in Australia.

“We have seen other jurisdictions record a UK variant, but this is the first time the South African variant has been identified in Australia.

“The positive news, the good news about this individual is they were in hotel quarantine at the time they were tested and they have since been transferred to a hospital and 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.”

The new coronavirus variant which stems from the UK – officially titled VUI-202012/01 – has already been discovered in Australia.

The new UK variant is thought to be up to 70% more transmissible, meaning it can spread much faster than the original version.

Ms D’Ath said there are currently 11 cases of COVID-19 in Queensland, and 1,248 cases since the start of the year.

Australia has confirmed 28,349 cases of coronavirus and 909 deaths since the pandemic began.

Sydney has recently been put on high alert after a cluster of cases in the city’s northern beachside suburbs.

New Year’s Eve celebrations have been scaled back, and although the capital’s famous firework display will go ahead, officials have banned people from gathering near to Sydney Harbour Bridge to watch.

Meanwhile, India has confirmed that six people who returned from the United Kingdom in recent weeks have tested positive with the new variant of coronavirus which stemmed from the UK.

The health ministry said all six patients were isolated and their fellow travellers were tracked down. Close contacts of the infected patients were also put under quarantine.

India had already suspended flights from and to the UK until the end of the year, in a bid to slow the spread of the new variant.

The second-most populous country in the world, India has confirmed 10,222,303 cases of coronavirus and 148,153 deaths since the pandemic began.

India is expected to start a vaccination drive for some 300 million people early next month.

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