Premiers and chief ministers will hold a special meeting of National Cabinet on Friday to discuss the threat posed by a mutant strain of the COVID-19 virus that has emerged in the United Kingdom.
Key points:

  • A mutant strain of coronavirus has been found in the UK that is more transmissible
  • The Prime Minister will meet with state political leaders on Friday as part of National Cabinet to discuss Australia’s response
  • National Cabinet wasn’t due to sit until February

In a message posted on social media, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he requested the proposal through the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly.
State leaders will discuss a proposal to further strengthen the COVID safety protocols for international travel processes, particularly over growing concerns with the UK strain.
Mr Morrison’s announcement follows urgent calls for the meeting from around the country, including from WA Premier Mark McGowan.
“We need to discuss the UK variant and what we can do to protect Australians,” he said.
The next National Cabinet meeting wasn’t scheduled until early February.
The WA Premier repeated his call for returning Australians travelling from the United States and the UK to be tested for COVID-19 before being allowed to board a plane.
Extra border measures mooted
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant had also called for a “universal approach” to the mutant strain.
“I think we do have to have a universal approach to ensuring that we keep our citizens safe and keep a universal precautions approach to making sure our infection control is at the highest bar,” she said.
National Cabinet will discuss how to contain the new strain of the virus which is more transmissible.(Supplied)
But she warned there were no shortcuts, predicting the new strain “will potentially be everywhere”.
“Adding testing or prior-to-departure screening, I think, is useful in some circumstances, though we should emphasise and I said multiple times a single test doesn’t determine it,” she said.
“You could still be infectious on a plane after being tested.”
Catch up on the main COVID-19 news from January 6 with our coronavirus blog.
Tony Blakely, an epidemiology professor at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, said if Australia did not close its border to high-risk countries, authorities had to consider putting more measures in place to reduce the chances of it leaking into the community.
“We know that the virus will occasionally sneak through quarantine, but this one is even more likely to sneak through because it’s that much more transmissible,” he told ABC Radio yesterday afternoon.
“So not only is it a threat if it gets in, but it’s more likely to get in than previous versions of the virus on a traveller.”
Professor Blakely said extra border measures could include ensuring masks were worn on incoming flights, testing people before they get on planes to Australia, and keeping people as separated as possible on the journey.
He also said authorities should consider “immediately and urgently” vaccinating border staff to reduce the likelihood of them inadvertently catching the virus and passing it on.
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