Brisbane, Australia (AP) – Australia has halved the number of passengers permitted by plane in an effort to prevent the spread of a highly contagious type of coronavirus that was first identified in Britain.
A sanitation worker at a Brisbane Quarantine Hotel who was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Wednesday is the first person to have contracted the variant found in the Australian community. Other cases have been detected among travelers while in hotel quarantine, as there is little risk of community spreading.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said state leaders have agreed to halve the number of international arrivals at airports in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia by February 15. The number of arrivals to Victoria was already relatively low and will remain unchanged.
Quarantine workers will be tested for the virus daily.
Authorities in Brisbane, Australia’s third-most populous city, are locked down for three days starting Friday evening to contain the spread.
Australia’s chief health official Paul Kelly said anyone who has been in Brisbane since January 2 should also be isolated.
“Our main problem is keeping Australians safe and really making sure that this particular strain is not the one that is circulating in Australia,” said Kelly. “The reason is that it will be difficult to control.”
The Queensland state government said masks will also become mandatory for the first time in Brisbane and some surrounding municipalities.
Janet Young, the state’s chief health official, noted that the more contagious nature of the variant has made the outbreak in the UK more difficult to control. “So we need to act really, really fast. We need to find each case now,” Young added.
A woman’s diagnosis of approximately four months ends with no locally acquired Queensland infection.
On other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
– The state of emergency took effect on Friday in and around Tokyo as coronavirus cases rose. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga made the announcement on Thursday. It lasts until February 7, and restaurants and bars are asked to close at 8 PM and people are asked to stay home and not mix with the crowds. The advertisement does not carry any penalties. But it works like a strong demand as Japan strives to keep its economy going. Shopping malls and schools will remain open. Cinemas, museums, and other events will be required to reduce attendance. Places challenging the demand will be announced in a list, while places that comply with the request will be eligible for assistance, according to officials. Suga also promised more aid to hospitals treating Covid-19 patients. He added that the Japanese military is ready to help, and efforts are underway to obtain approval for the vaccine and its delivery.