Lockdowns and travel bans have been enforced as Australia races to head off any potential spread of highly contagious super strains of the coronavirus.
The Greater Brisbane region in under weekend lockdown following the confirmation of a case of the UK variant that has led to a steep rise in infections in England.
The UK has recorded its highest daily deaths in the pandemic (1325 deaths) as London declared a major incident on Friday with hospitals overwhelmed.
News of Brisbane’s snap lockdown which started Friday 6pm sparked panic buying of supplies and long queues at supermarkets and other stores in Brisbane.
Other states have responded to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s decision with varying forms of travel restrictions with Queensland.
Victorians who had been in the lockdown area have been told to cancel any travel plans back to their home state.
Western Australia introduced a hard border with Queensland while Tasmania and the NT declared a hotspot.
On Friday night the NSW government put in place a new Public Health Order requiring anyone in NSW who had been in Greater Brisbane since 12:01am on January 2 to follow the same lockdown rules.
Queensland’s move received the full backing of Prime Minister Scott Morrison who said it was “very wise”.
“We know there is only one case, but what we do know is that this new strain is some 70 per cent more transmissible than the previous strains of the virus,” Mr Morrison said on Friday.
He had a clear message for Queenslanders involved in the lockdown, saying: “Stay where you are. Don’t go anywhere.”
Mr Morrison was speaking after he met with premiers and first ministers at an an emergency national cabinet meeting by video-link on Friday to discuss the UK virus and other highly contagious variants, as well as the roll-out of the coronavirus vaccine from next month.
The national cabinet has agreed to a number of new measures around flight travel in an attempt to guard Australia from the UK and South African variants spreading around the world.
Pre-flight testing of returning Australians will be adopted while masks will be mandatory on all domestic and international flights and at airports.
International arrivals will also be reduced to NSW, Queensland and Western Australia until February 15, rather than blocking flights from certain countries.
The closing off of international flights was considered at the meeting but Mr Morrison said this was not recommended by the national cabinet because Australia still needs to function with vaccines needed to be flown in, as will other critical supplies.
Queensland reported nine new COVID-19 cases in hotel quarantine on Friday, while Victoria reported a sole case, also in quarantine.
NSW had four local COVID-19 cases and seven cases in returned travellers from more than 26,000 tests in the 24-hour period to Thursday at 8pm.
NSW Health has issued several new public health alerts for venues attended by infectious cases.
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) January 8, 2021