A ‘pre-cursor’ to the highly infectious mutant Covid strain which has devastated the UK, escaped Victoria‘s hotel quarantine system back in June, according to a leading Australian scientist.
But Professor Damian Purcell, head of the molecular virology laboratory at the Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne, said the public were not told about it because it might have ‘spooked’ people.
Genomic testing suggests 37 people in the coronavirus-hit state were infected with the strain before Victoria’s lengthy second lockdown helped to bring the variant under control.
A ‘pre-cursor’ to the highly infectious mutant Covid strain which has devastated the UK, escaped Victoria’s hotel quarantine system back in June
Professor Damian Purcell, head of the molecular virology laboratory at the Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne, said the public were not told about it because it might have ‘spooked’ people
The world has been on edge since the mutant strain of coronavirus originating in the UK was found to be about 70 per cent more contagious than the initial SARS-CoV-2 variant.
Known as B.1.1.7, the strain has resulted in a massive wave of infections and sent the UK into a national lockdown for a third time.
South Africa has also seen a similar but separate strain known as 501.V2.
Professor Purcell said the variant which secretly leaked out of Victoria’s hotel quarantine, known as N501Y, has many similarities with the mutant UK and South African strains.
‘Probably the precursor to the British variant was the one we had here in Melbourne,’ he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
‘Some of the viruses that came out of hotel quarantine in Victoria had some of these key mutations.’
Security guards (left) were not told to wear masks at all times while manning Melbourne’s quarantine hotels, an inquiry into Victoria’s hotel quarantine program found
The government advice, which was presented to the inquiry, only told guards to wear masks if a 1.5m distance was ‘not feasible’. Pictured: Passengers are quarantined in Melbourne
He said the truth was not released until now because ‘we did not want to spook people that we had a real problem with mutants here’.
What makes the variant more contagious is that it binds more tightly to human cells.
While it has not been confirmed whether the vaccines which are in the midst of being rolled out across the globe will be effective on the mutant variants, Professor Purcell said he is confident ‘the vaccines have got this covered’.
But he warned that more variants are likely to continue to develop and spread: ‘We expect to see them. They are going to keep coming,’ Professor Purcell said.
The information had not been released until now, he said, because ‘we did not want to spook people that we had a real problem with mutants here’.
‘We expect to see them. They are going to keep coming,’ Professor Purcell said.
The UK variant of Covid entered Queensland via a returned traveller at Brisbane Airport and has been identified in quarantine throughout the nation. This is the first time it has leaked from hotel quarantine
It comes as Australia’s worst fears were realised on Thursday night when Queensland confirmed a mutant strain of Covid which plunged the UK into a third lockdown has escaped hotel quarantine and is in the community.
A woman in her 20s who works as a cleaner at the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Brisbane’s Spring Hill tested positive to the highly-contagious strain of the virus late on Wednesday.
Health officials have since determined she spent at least four days in the community while infected, visiting Brisbane’s busiest train stations during peak hour and two grocery stores in her local community.
There are concerns the mutated virus, which is believed to be up to 70 times more contagious than previous strains, could have already spread among close contacts.
Queensland Health authorities maintained on Thursday that the employee did all the right things by seeking testing when she did – but fear the hyper virulent strain may have passed to others with ease.
There are mounting concerns that the super strain will prompt other state leaders to slam their borders shut to Queensland – particularly after the Sunshine State has been so quick to close to other states in the past.
States including Western Australia, which has banned people from NSW completely, have been trigger-happy when it comes to border closures after even the smallest outbreak – with the mutant outbreak likely to illicit a similar response from Premier Mark McGowan.
A terrifying map shows the Brisbane locations which have been exposed to the UK’s mutant variant of the virus since January 2, including a busy train line, a Coles and a Woolworths
Drive-through clinics have been set up throughout Queensland and people are urged to get tested if they develop symptoms (pictured, a testing centre in Murrarrie, Brisbane)
Sydneysiders are not able to enter Queensland until at least the end of January after a cluster on the Northern Beaches spread through the city, with a new outbreak since popping up in the western suburbs.
Explained: UK’s mutant Covid strain
The highly infectious mutant strain of Covid now has 27 variations after it was first identified in Kent County, England, on September 21.
It now represents more than 50% of new cases diagnosed between October and Dec, making it the most common strain of Covid in England presently.
The deadly strain is believed to be more contagious and affects children worse than the original, prompting the government to plunge England back into its third nationwide lockdown.
The new variant is between 50 per cent and 74 per cent more contagious than the last, but is not necessarily any more deadly.
Victoria has also shut its border to all of NSW, fearing another wave of the deadly virus – after its second left 820 people dead and millions suffering three months of strict lockdown.
Victorians have already been placed on high alert after recording 27 cases in recent weeks, believed to have been brought across the border from NSW by a visitor.
A terrifying map shows the locations which have been exposed to the UK’s mutant variant of the virus since January 2.
The woman, who lives in Algester in Brisbane’s south, last worked on January 2 before developing symptoms and seeking a Covid test on Wednesday night.
Prior to that, she caught a train to work from Altandi Station to Roma Street Station at 7am on Saturday, January 2, one of the busiest stations in Brisbane’s CBD.
Later that afternoon, she boarded a 4pm train from Central Station back to Altandi Station. Contact tracers will use pre-paid travel cards to track potential contacts who may have been at one of the stations at the same time.
The next day, she visited the Calamvale North Woolworths between 11am and noon, and then two days later on January 5 visited Coles in Sunnybank Hills from 7.30am to 8am.
From 8am to 8.15am, she also visited the Nextra newsagent also in the Sunnybank Hills Shoppingtown on the same day.
The infected cleaner, a woman in her 20s who lives in Algester, had been working at the Hotel Grand Chancellor at Spring Hill (pictured), with her most recent shift on January 2
The cleaner visited the Calamvale North Woolworths (pictured) between 11am and noon on January 3 while infected
It is not clear if any more locations will be identified in the coming days.
Health officials are urgently trying to trace the cleaner’s contacts – prompting emergency restrictions for aged care homes and hospitals.
They are also urgently trying to establish whether she had a second job anywhere else.
The Hotel Grand Chancellor, where she was working at the time, has processed four Covid-positive cases recently, including one with the mutant UK strain.
The cleaner’s diagnosis marks the first time in 113 days that a person in Queensland contracted the illness locally. All other infections have occurred in the hotel quarantine system.
Queensland was one of Australia’s only states to have not experienced any breaches in the quarantine program prior to the cleaner’s case, despite accepting a total of 60,000 returned travellers since the program was introduced on March 20, 2020 when international borders were slammed shut.
From 8am to 8.15am on January 5th, she also visited the Nextra newsagent also in the Sunnybank Hills Shoppingtown (pictured)
Prior to that, she caught a train to work from Altandi Station to Roma Street Station (pictured) at 7am on Saturday, January 2
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk