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Australia's largest state reports first COVID-19 case in more than a month

9 Comments
By Colin Packham and Renju Jose

Australia's most populous state reported on Wednesday its first locally acquired coronavirus infection in more than a month, with health authorities working to track down the source and the variant involved.

The first local infection in southeastern New South Wales since March 31 strengthens prospects for a resumption of social distancing curbs, many of which had been eased as cases dwindled.

Although Australia has largely eradicated COVID-19, a man in his 50s with no known links to hotels used to quarantine people who have arrived from overseas tested positive on Tuesday, the state's health ministry said in a statement.

The unidentified man visited several spots in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, the state capital and Australia's biggest city, the ministry said.

Testing showed a higher viral load than typically seen in infected people, potentially increasing the chance that the man has spread the disease, the ministry said. He is considered to have been infectious since April 30.

"That give us some cause for concern," the state's chief health officer, Kerry Chant, told reporters in Sydney, adding that all those who had been in close contact with the man had been told to self-isolate and get tested.

Authorities are testing whether the case is genetically linked to anyone in the quarantine system or cases in other states, Chant said.

They are also checking which virus variant is involved.

Australia's hardline approach to rein in COVID-19, with measures including snap lockdowns, border controls and swift contact tracing has kept its tally of infections at just over 29,800, with 910 deaths since the pandemic began.

However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has drawn wide criticism for a decision to block all travel for two weeks from India, which is battling a massive second wave of COVID-19 infections.

Anger surged after the government vowed on Saturday to punish attempts to enter from India with jail terms of up to five years and fines.

For more than a year, Australia has allowed only citizens and permanent residents to return, though they must spend two weeks in strict quarantine.

Morrison defended the ban on Wednesday, saying it had prevented hotel quarantine sites from being overrun.

"This was a necessary step to ensure that we could help more Australian citizens and residents get home, safely, in a way that did not risk a third wave in Australia," Morrison told a televised news briefing in the northeastern state of Queensland.

Academics and lawyers have questioned the validity of the India ban, despite the government's assertion that it was temporary, and on Wednesday a legal challenge was launched.

Lawyers for Gary Newman, a 73-year-old who has been stuck in India since he travelled there in March 2020, will argue that Australia's conservative government does not have the constitutional power to block people returning from India.

No ruling was given, with Justice Stephen Burley agreeing to set a hearing date within 48 hours.

© Thomson Reuters 2021.

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

9 Comments
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Red Alert! Find where he got it quick!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Australia's largest state reports first COVID-19 case in more than a month

Corona is here to stay, it is endemic now. To try to eliminate it with police measures is stupid -- unless there is a politcal, rather than a health agenda.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Corona is here to stay, it is endemic now. To try to eliminate it with police measures is stupid -- unless there is a politcal, rather than a health agenda.

Wrong. Covid is not endemic in Australia or New Zealand where community transmission has been all but eliminated. We plan on keeping it that way.

Spanish flu took six years to disappear so saying covid is here to stay is premature and not based on science or past pandemic outcomes.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Zaphod:

Why are you talking about “police measures”? The article doesn’t mention police measures anywhere, and the “authorities” mentioned are almost certainly health authorities. Hard to work out why you’d assume otherwise, unless you have a political agenda rather than a health one.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

"Spanish flu took six years to disappear so saying covid is here to stay is premature and not based on science or past pandemic outcomes."

Spanish Flu was renamed Influenza A, which is still with us. The stark difference between Covid and Flu is the government doesn't make a big deal about the latter. Namely the US Government and one of its puppet alphabet agencies the CDC.

The Aussies and Kiwis have done an amazing job in containing Covid. It's surreal to watch NRL with the stadiums packed and minimal mask usage.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

conoranvirus infection

what's a new virus then

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I’m living in Australia and it is good to have all social freedoms back. However, people are becoming complacent. They are forgetting their distancing rules, not washing their hands, etc, etc. This is quite dangerous for this virus. People must remain vigilant to avoid this monster raising its head again.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Do the hustleToday  03:50 pm JST

I’m living in Australia and it is good to have all social freedoms back. However, people are becoming complacent. They are forgetting their distancing rules, not washing their hands, etc, etc. This is quite dangerous for this virus. People must remain vigilant to avoid this monster raising its head again.

You don't have all your social freedoms back. Tried leaving the country, or being an Aussie trying to get home from overseas? And snap lockdowns can come at any time based on the whim of state premiers.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

You don't have all your social freedoms back. Tried leaving the country, or being an Aussie trying to get home from overseas?

Free to leave the country and depending on where you go you can freely re-enter from safe nations of which only New Zealand has been cleared so far. Coming back from any other nation will involve a quarantine period for community safety. Fully endorsed by the vast majority of Australians.

And snap lockdowns can come at any time based on the whim of state premiers.

Incorrect it is based on Covid cases being found in the community and it is fully endorsed by the public.

These short lockdowns in areas of concern only, have helped keep the rest of the nation safe and operating freely. Look for a bad spin on things but we agree with the actions our elected officials have been taking, and continue to take to keep people safe and life and the economy as close to pre covid as anywhere in the world.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

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