Asia/Pacific

New virus strain found in Australia for first time

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Health officials in Australia said Monday that they had confirmed two cases of a new strain of COVID-19 that spreads faster than its previous mutations.

Reuters reported that the chief health officer for New South Wales, Kerry Chant, confirmed six new cases of COVID-19 across the state on Monday, including two that were believed to be the new, fast-spreading strain that forced British authorities to shut down the Christmas shopping season this weekend.

Officials confirmed “a couple of UK returned travelers with the particular mutations,” Chant said, adding that no cases are thought to be circulating in the community.

“Everyone coming from the UK is going into 14 days of hotel quarantine and they are of no risk as that quarantine works so successfully,” added Australia’s acting top health official, Paul Kelly.

News of the strain’s arrival in Australia comes just two days after U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned residents of the dangers presented by the new strain and implemented measures shutting down businesses and restricting gatherings.

Vivek Murphy, who was nominated to retake his old position as surgeon general by President-elect Joe Biden, said on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” on NBC that there is no evidence yet that the new strain of COVID-19 is more deadly than previous iterations.

“This news from the U.K. appears to be about a new strain of the virus that’s more transmissible, more contagious than the virus we’ve seen prior to this,” he said. “While it seems to be more transmissible, we do not have evidence yet that this is a more deadly virus to an individual who acquires it.”

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