Australia’s most populous state reported its first locally acquired coronavirus infection in more than a month on Wednesday, with health authorities working to find the source and variant.
The first local infection in southeastern New South Wales on March 31
Although Australia largely eliminated COVID-19, a 50-year-old man with no known links to hotels used to quarantine people arriving from abroad was positive on Tuesday, a state health ministry statement said.
The unidentified man visited several places in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, the state capital and the largest city in Australia, the ministry said.
Tests show a higher viral load than is usually seen in infected people, which potentially increases the chances of a man spreading the disease, the ministry said. He is thought to have been infected since April 30.
“This gives us cause for concern,” state health chief Kerry Chant told reporters in Sydney, adding that anyone who had been in close contact with the man was told to isolate himself and get tested.
Authorities are investigating whether the case is genetically related to someone in the quarantine system or cases in other states, Chant said.
They also check which variant of the virus it is.
Australia’s strong approach to controlling COVID-19, with measures including rapid blocking, border control and rapid contact tracking, has kept the number of infections at just over 29,800, with 910 deaths starting since the pandemic began.
However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has widely criticized the decision to block all travel for two weeks from India, which is battling a massive second wave of COVID-19 infections.
Anger has risen after the government promised on Saturday to punish attempts to enter from India with up to five years in prison and fines.
For more than a year, Australia has only allowed the return of citizens and permanent residents, although they have to spend two weeks in strict quarantine.
Morrison defended the ban on Wednesday, saying it had prevented oversaturation of hotel quarantine sites.
“This was a necessary step to ensure that we could help more Australians and residents return home, safely, in a way that does not risk a third wave in Australia,” Morrison told a televised briefing in northeastern Queensland. .
Academics and lawyers are questioning the validity of the ban in India, despite the government’s claim that it is temporary, and a court appeal was filed on Wednesday.
Lawyers for Gary Newman, 73, who has remained in India since traveling there in March 2020, will argue that the Conservative government of Australia does not have the constitutional authority to block people returning from India.
No decision was made, with Judge Stephen Burley agreeing to set a hearing date within 48 hours.
Our standards: Thomson Reuters’ principles of trust.