UK virus strain examined ahead of summit

Medical experts are preparing advice for the prime minister and premier on how to deal with a worrying UK strain of the coronavirus, ahead of a national cabinet meeting on Friday.

Thursday’s meeting of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee – the key body for health emergencies – comes as Scott Morrison brought forward talks with the premiers that were not due to be held until early February.

Leaders will consider a proposal to strengthen the safety of end to end travel processes, from airport arrival to clearance of hotel quarantine.


“This is being done particularly in the context of the UK strain,” Mr Morrison posted on his Facebook page.

The bringing forward of vaccination rollouts will also be on the agenda.

The government had set a target of late March for the first vaccinations but now believes, based on new advice, earlier in the month is achievable.

Australia will be among the first countries to conditionally approve the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19. It’s one of four vaccinations the government has purchased.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has set an October target for broad community vaccination.

Frontline workers including those involved in hotel quarantine and border control, health workers and aged care residents would be included in the first round of the rollout.

Meanwhile, Victoria reported no local, interstate or overseas acquired cases to report on Thursday – its first clean sheet since December 29.

But the state is still trying to identify the source of the state’s first mystery COVID-19 case in more than two months.

The active cases include a man in his 30s who authorities fear may have caught the virus after going to Chadstone Shopping Centre on Boxing Day and the second day of the Test at the MCG a day later.

There were 32,767 swabs processed in the 24 hours to Wednesday, on top of more than 100,000 over the previous three days.

In NSW, two venues in popular holiday spots south of Sydney have been hit with COVID-19 health alerts, and scores of visitors to a Hindu temple in western Sydney may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

Health authorities on Wednesday night issued COVID-19 casual-contact alerts for the Nostalgia Factor Shop in Kangaroo Valley and Taj Indian Restaurant in Huskisson on December 27.

Participants in a cricket match at Ollie Webb Cricket Ground in Parramatta on December 28 have been told to get tested and isolate for 14 days regardless of the result.

NSW recorded four new locally-acquired COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday, including an 18-year-old man whose regional NSW camping trip through the state’s west has put several towns on high alert.

Health authorities are confident of checks put in place for the start of the Australia-India cricket Test on Thursday.

Those who go to the SCG need to wear a mask at all times except when eating and drinking.

Allowing the Test to go ahead is part of a strategy to keep the economy ticking over, following a dip into recession.

The tourism industry is also hoping to get a kickstart from a $6 million move to allow cars to be transported for free on the ferry to Tasmania.

However, Labor leader Anthony Albanese says the government is applying a handbrake to the recovery by providing poor mobile and broadband coverage in parts of the country.

“When the government came to office, it replaced the former Labor government’s plan for an NBN delivering fibre to the premises with a second-rate copper wire-based system that was out of date before it was even constructed,” he said.

© AAP 2021