Australia confirms two cases of new virus strain spreading in Britain

SYDNEY: Australia yesterday confirmed it has detected two cases of a fast-spreading new coronavirus strain that has forced Britain to reverse plans to ease curbs over Christmas, the first confirmed cases of the strain in the Asia-Pacific region.

Sydney on Sunday reported six new cases in people returning from overseas and in quarantine, and the authorities said among them were two cases of the fast-spreading new strain.

However, New South Wales officials stressed that no people infected with the new strain were believed to be circulating in the community.

"We've had a couple of UK returned travellers with the particular mutations," NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said.

The authorities were hopeful they were getting to grips with a flare-up of the virus in Sydney after NSW reported its lowest one-day rise in new infections in three days.

The state said 15 people had tested positive for the virus in the past 24 hours, down from the 30 the previous day, bringing the total number of cases in a new outbreak centred on Sydney's northern beaches to 83.

"I'm pleased with what we've seen overnight, but again, it's volatile," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

The government would provide an update by tomorrow on "what Christmas and the next few days look like" in terms of containment measures, she said. - REUTERS