Cases of the highly contagious COVID strain have been detected in the United Kingdom in returning travelers in Australia

Cases of the highly contagious COVID strain have been detected in the United Kingdom in returning travelers in Australia

New South Wales Prime Minister Gladys Bergiklian said that returning travelers carrying a mutated form of the COVID-19 virus have been detected in Australia, however, the new strain has not appeared in the Northern Shores outbreak.

The coronavirus mutation spread rapidly in southeast England, prompting many European countries to ban travelers from the UK.

In response to a question about the new strain today at a press conference, Ms Berejiklian said that two travelers returning from the United Kingdom who had tested positive for COVID-19 were found to be carrying the mutated variant of the virus.

“We had some travelers returning from the UK with the special mutations that you point to,” she said.

A World Health Organization official told the BBC overnight that a case of the mutated virus had been detected in Australia.

It has also been discovered in the Netherlands and Denmark, said Maria Van Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist.

She said, “We understand that this alternative has also been identified in Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia – there was one case in Australia and it did not spread there.”

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The highly contagious strain has caused tougher lockdowns in London and southeast England over Christmas, affecting 16 million people.

British officials said the new variant of the virus could be up to 70 percent more transmissible than the original.

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove says the new type of virus has not spread further in Australia.(News video)

Dr Van Kerkhove said there was no evidence that vaccines were less effective against the altered strain.

“What we understand is that we have increased the transmissibility of the infection in terms of its ability to spread,” she said.

“More studies are underway to understand how quickly this spreads, and whether it is related to the variable itself or to a combination of factors with behavior.”

“We understand that the virus does not cause a more serious disease, from the initial information they shared with us.”

But she said there are a number of questions about the mutation that need answers.

“More sequencing that could be done would be useful to help us determine if this alternative is being traded elsewhere,” she said.

“The more this virus spreads, the greater the chances of changing it. So we really need to do everything we can now to prevent it from spreading.”

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