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Relief UK virus strain so far contained

There were sighs of relief around the country that the highly-infectious UK COVID-19 strain found in a Brisbane cleaner has so far not taken hold among the community.

Indeed, there were just three new locally acquired virus cases reported in the past 24 hours, and all linked to established clusters in NSW.

In stark contrast, chief medical officer Paul Kelly pointed to the overseas toll where almost three-quarters of a million cases were recorded globally over the same period.

There were also 12,000 deaths around the world, making a total of almost two million since the pandemic began.

“We’ve not had a death from someone who was acutely sick with COVID-19 since October,” Professor Kelly told reporters in Canberra on Sunday.

“In many other countries, the hospitals and intensive care units are absolutely full and deaths are mind-boggling.”

The Greater Brisbane region will remain in lockdown until 6 pm on Monday as a result of the discovered UK variant, but a relieved Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said 112 of the 147 close contacts to the cleaner have so far tested negative.

The premier will reveal the state’s next steps on Monday.

More than 19,000 Queenslanders have taken the COVID-19 test in the past 24 hours.

Queensland chief medical officer Jeanette Young said there had been a fantastic response to the risks posed by the UK virus.

“This is the first time we’ve seen it in our community in Australia, we know what has been going on in the UK, but it is very hard to unravel, because they came from a different position to us,” Dr Young told reporters.

“So this is all about learning every single day, but taking the most precautionary approach possible, because we don’t want this to get out there.”

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said Queensland’s results were reassuring as his state recorded zero local cases for a fourth straight day.

However, he said 96 travellers from Queensland into Victoria breached restrictions put in place in line with the Greater Brisbane lockdown and are now in home isolation until at least Monday evening and are being tested.

Victoria did record six cases among travellers returned from overseas who are already in isolation.

NSW also reported three cases among quarantined returned travellers, along with the three new local infections – two in the outstanding Berala cluster and one in the northern beaches – even as restrictions were eased in the latter.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the main threat of her state’s clusters has subsided to some extent.

“We’re still mopping up and that’s why all of us have to be on high alert,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters.

She thanked the northern beaches community for their sacrifices during the lockdown that began just before Christmas.

Meanwhile, Western Australian police have charged a crew member of a bulk carrier ship for allegedly jumping into the water and swimming ashore in an attempt to avoid quarantine.

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