Australia confirms at least two cases of new fast-spreading mutated Covid-19 United Kingdom strain

Australia on Monday said it has detected cases of the new fast-spreading coronavirus strain identified in the United Kingdom.

Two travellers from the United Kingdom to Australia’s New South Wales state were found carrying the mutated variant of the virus that Britain has said could be up to 70% more infectious.

Both are in hotel quarantine, and the recent spike in infections in Sydney is not linked to this, authorities said.

The new strain has prompted Britain’s European neighbours and several others to close their doors to travellers from the country.

Much is unknown about the strain, but experts said current vaccines should still be effective against it.

Australia, where cases in Sydney have flared in recent days, on Monday cancelled dozens of domestic flights. Australian states and territories enforced a ban on the entry of Sydney residents after the new coronavirus cluster was found in Sydney’s northern beaches area.

The border closures dashed hopes of travel amid the holiday season.

Overall Australia has recorded 908 deaths and just over 28,300 infections since the pandemic began, far fewer than many nations.

It has been praised for responding quickly to the pandemic with border shutdowns, lockdown measures and aggressive contract-tracing efforts. Some failures, however, have been blamed for deaths.