Asia Today: Australian city on lockdown over UK variant case
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Australia’s third-largest city, Brisbane, will lock down for three days from Friday after a cleaner at a quarantine hotel was diagnosed with the highly contagious British variant of COVID-19.
Masks will also become compulsory for the first time in Brisbane and some surrounding municipalities, the Queensland state government said.
“We know that that strain is 70% more infectious and we know the extreme difficulty that the U.K. has had in controlling their outbreak due to that strain,” Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said.
“So we need to act really, really fast. We need to find every single case now,” Young added.
While several cases of the variant have been found in travelers in hotel quarantine, the cleaner is the first person to be infected with it in Australia.
Authorities believe the woman, aged in her 20s, was infectious from Jan. 2. She tested positive after showing symptoms on Wednesday.
Her diagnosis ends almost four months of no locally acquired infections in Queensland.
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
— A state of emergency took effect Friday in and around Tokyo as coronavirus cases surge. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga issued the declaration Thursday. It lasts until Feb. 7, and asks restaurants and bars to close at 8 p.m. and people to stay home and not mingle in crowds. The declaration carries no penalties. But it works as a strong request while Japan juggles to keep its economy going. Shopping malls and schools will remain open. Movie theaters, museums and other events will be asked to reduce attendance. Places that defy the request will be publicized on a list, while those that comply will be eligible for aid, according to officials. Suga also promised more aid for hospitals treating COVID-19 patients. The Japanese military is ready to help, and efforts are underway to get a vaccine approved and delivered, he added.