Australia now has four patients in hotel quarantine who have a new variant of Covid-19.
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the mutant strain, which is sweeping across south-east England, could be more contagious than other strains.
But he said there is no evidence vaccines do not work on the new strain.
Australia now has four patients in hotel quarantine who have a new variant of Covid-19. Pictured: The Northern Beaches in lockdown on Tuesday
‘There’s no evidence at the moment that it has any effect on the severity of the illness from the virus,’ he said.
‘There is no evidence at the moment that it interferes with the vaccine. There is no evidence at the moment that it interferes with diagnostic tests.’
The mutant strain was first detected in Australia almost a month ago, authorities have revealed to Daily Mail Australia.
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison has no plans to shut off flights from the UK as more than 20 countries close the door on travellers from Great Britain.
Thirteen European countries and nations including Canada, India, Israel and Iran have each banned travel from the UK in the wake of a highly infectious virus surge in England’s south-east.
British authorities cancelled Christmas gatherings amid claims the strain ravaging England’s south-east is up to 70 per cent more transmissible than ‘normal’ Covid.
The virus was first detected in Australia in a traveller from the United Kingdom in late November, a NSW Health spokeswoman said late on Monday night.
The mutant strain of Covid-19 was detected in Australia a month ago in hotel quarantine, NSW Health has revealed. Above, a testing nurse
France temporarily closed its border to the United Kingdom – halting freight deliveries from England (a truck queue is above)
A second case was reported in the state’s hotel quarantine system – which takes in more than half of the travelling population – on December 7.
Both patients tested positive to the virus early in their 14 day quarantine period and authorities stress the Avalon cluster is not linked to the strain.
‘The Avalon cluster strain does not display this variation,’ the NSW Health spokeswoman said, and has instead been blamed on a US strain.
The infected overseas travellers were placed in special health accommodation and were kept in hospital until assessed by doctors as no longer infectious.
On Monday, Mr Morrison said the Australian government wasn’t planning to follow the lead of other countries by closing the door on UK return travellers.
‘We have no plans to go down the path of (banning UK flights),’ Mr Morrison told reporters at Parliament House.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has pointed to the country’s hotel quarantine system as its first line of defence against the more virulent strain, and one which other countries don’t have.
The new strain has 17 mutations, mostly in its spike protein, which experts said could possibly provide it with its incredibly infectious nature.
But there is no evidence the mutated virus causes a more severe form of disease and doctors, including Australia’s chief health officer, have expressed scepticism about the British Government’s claims.
The new virus strain ravaging the United Kingdom has 17 mutations, largely to the spike protein, which is how the virus penetrates cells. British authorities believe the strain can be transmitted from person-to-person more easily than the typical strains
‘The strain circulating especially in the southeast of England at the moment has particular mutations related to the spike protein, important because it is the way the virus gets into the cells,’ Professor Kelly said.
‘There is no definite evidence that this is a significant change.’ Other experts have pointed out the virus’s spread in England occurred during a period of relaxed restrictions and the depths of winter.
On Monday, New South Wales Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant confirmed an international report claiming a case of the mutated strain had been detected in Australia.
Its appearance Down Under was first revealed by the European Centre of Disease Control, which reported that a case of the virus strain had been detected in an Australian case in November.
Amid concerns, the CEO of BioNTech – the joint manufacturer with Pfizer of the first vaccine against Covid – has said he is confident the jab will be effective against the virus variant.
Ugur Sahin told Germany’s Bild TV the company will investigate the mutation but he viewed the matter with a ‘degree of soberness’.
The mutant virus strain has been contained to hotel quarantine in Sydney so far. Above, testing queues
MUTANT STRAIN WILL BECOME ‘DOMINANT’ GLOBAL VIRUS, SCIENTIST SAYS
The new mutated virus found in the UK is likely to become the dominant global strain of Covid-19, a scientist advising the British Government has said.
Calum Semple, professor of outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool, said the new strain is infecting many more people in the same amount of time that the previous variant did.
When asked on Britain’s Sky News whether the mutant coronavirus will become the dominant strain around the world, he said: ‘I suspect it will, or strains like it will.
‘Because the virus has the evolutionary advantage in transmitting more quickly, it will out-compete all the other strains, and so it will naturally do that.
‘As immunity comes into the community more widely, then you’ll start to see more pressure on the virus and you’re more likely to see other escapes of other variations.’
He said this is not a surprise as the UK deals with evolving strains of the flu virus every year, adding: ‘The flu vaccine typically contains three or four flavours of the influenza virus and we simply pick on a best-guess basis each season, and then people that make the vaccines scale up in a timely manner.’
Prof Semple said it was too early to be sure how a vaccine will behave with the new strain, adding: ‘We do not yet have herd immunity despite those people that think herd immunity is going to be the salvation.
‘We won’t have it until a very large number of people have been vaccinated.’