The more transmissible B.1.1.7 COVID variant – which was first detected in the UK, and has now been identified in more than 40 countries – has raised concerns it might eventually become the dominant strain worldwide.
Even though it has not been linked to more severe illness, and there are hopeful signs the current vaccine will be effective against it, a substantially more transmissible virus remains a serious threat and could easily overwhelm local health delivery systems.
Two days ago Denmark – which has detected fewer than 100 cases – estimated it could become their dominant strain in as little as a month from now (see Denmark: Statens Serum Institute (SSI) Estimate Of COVID Variant B.1.1.7 Growth).
For countries who have successfully achieved low levels of COVID-19 transmission – and have only found only a few cases of the variant virus – there remains hope it may still be possible to contain, or at least slow, the spread of this more daunting variant
While Australia has detected the variant in a small number of quarantined arrivals into the country, until yesterday they’d never detected a case outside of quarantine. Yesterday that lucky streak ended with the detection of the variant in a quarantine hotel employee,who was presumably infectious for several days before being identified.
This January 7th alert from Public Health Australia.
A public health alert has been issued for locations across Brisbane following the identification of a positive case in a quarantine hotel employee.
The 20-29-year-old woman was unknowingly infectious from 2 January 2021 and tested positive for COVID-19 on 6 January 2021.
Those who have been to the below locations during the relevant time periods, regardless of whether they have symptoms, are asked to come forward for testing and isolate until they receive their results.
Critically, even if a negative test result is received, people are asked to continue to monitor for symptoms and get retested if necessary.
Greater Brisbane will go into lockdown for three days, while contact tracers work to ensure the UK variant of COVID-19 is not circulating in the community.From 6pm tonight, Friday 8 January, until 6pm Monday 11 January people in the local government areas of Brisbane, Moreton Bay, Ipswich, Redlands and Logan will be required to stay at home except for the following reasons:
- Shopping for essentials, food and necessary supplies
- Medical or healthcare needs, including compassionate requirements
- Exercise with no more than one other person, unless all from the same household
- Providing care or assistance to an immediate family member
- Work, or volunteering, or study if it is not reasonably practicable to work or learn remotely
- Child custody arrangements
- Legal obligations
- Visit for end of life
- Attend funeral or wedding in line with restrictions
Masks will also need to be worn everywhere in those local government areas except if people are at home.
Cafes, pubs and restaurants will be open only for takeaway and delivery services.
Funerals will be restricted to 20 people and weddings to 10, including the celebrant and two witnesses.
All essential businesses remain open. If you need to leave Greater Brisbane for an essential purpose, such as to work, to return home or to access healthcare, you should limit your movements for those three days wherever you go.
We’re also asking anyone who was in Greater Brisbane on or since 2 January, to follow the same lockdown rules where they are now. Only leave your home for the essential reasons and wear a mask.
If you have any symptoms at all, get tested immediately and quarantine at home until you receive a negative result.
List of restrictions
The full list of restrictions include:
- No more than two visitors to the household per day (in addition to anyone else currently staying in the household), excluding care workers or volunteers
- All businesses that can remain open must adhere to social (physical) distancing and continue operating under a COVID Safe or Industry Plan
- Restaurants and cafes to provide takeaway and delivery services only
- Cinemas, entertainment and recreation venues, gyms etc to close
- Places of worship to close
- Weddings involve a maximum of 10 people, including the celebrant and witnesses
- Funerals involve a maximum of 20 people
- Mandatory mask wearing anywhere outside of your home
- No visitors to aged care facilities, hospitals, disability accommodation services or correctional facilities.
Whether or not is is reasonable to expect that Australia – or any other country – can keep the B.1.1.7 variant out of their nation’s population over the long term is debatable.
But Australia – which quelled two modest spikes of COVID in 2020 – has remarkably brought down their daily case counts to the low double, or even single digits (see epi curve below).
Meaning every delaying tactic, and every measure they can take to potentially slow its spread, gives them more time to roll out COVID vaccinations (now expected to begin in February) to their front line workers, and general population.
And that’s a hard earned luxury few other countries can take advantage of right now.