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Australia caps arrivals to contain Covid outbreak

A three-day lockdown has been imposed on Brisbane after a hotel worker was found to be infected with a fast-spreading Covid variant.

Australia is set to slash the number of arrivals into the country in an effort to contain the spread of the new, fast-spreading Covid variant discovered in the United Kingdom late last year.

New caps on international arrivals will last until February 15 and will reduce the number of weekly arrivals into New South Wales to 1,505, Western Australia to 512 and Queensland to 500. There is no change for Victoria which is already operating at less than half capacity. South Australia’s weekly intake will remain at 490 passengers.

Some exemptions will be made, such as for seasonal workers from amber-risk countries where there is limited access to testing facilities.

The move follows the detection of the new variant in a quarantine hotel cleaner in Brisbane. This is the first time the new strain has been found in the wider Australian community.

As a result, Brisbane has been declared a hot spot and a three-day lockdown has been imposed on the city by the Queensland premier, Anastasia Palaszczuk.

“What we do know is that this new strain is some 70% more transmissible than the previous strains of the virus,” said prime minister Scott Morrison. “This strain is likely to become, in the very near future, the dominant strain.”

New arrival regulations mean all people arriving in Australia will need proof of a negative Covid-19 test. Face masks will be mandatory for all domestic and international flights.

Visitors into New South Wales from the Brisbane area or who have arrived since January 2 are being ordered to isolate. Western Australia has shut its border to Queensland and state premier Mark McGowan has asked residents not to leave Western Australia unless absolutely necessary. Victorian residents have been urged to avoid travel to Queensland.

Hotel quarantine staff in all Australian states will now be tested daily and international aircrew arriving into the country will be subject to quarantine.

Since the end of November last year, six returned residents have tested positive for the UK Covid variant and four for the South African variant. Both variants are believed to be significantly more contagious than earlier strains.


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