Australia Infectious couple had Kappa variant during NSW road trip

12:11  11 june  2021
12:11  11 june  2021 Source:   smh.com.au

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BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 30: Chief Health Officer of Queensland Doctor Jeannette Young speaks at Parliament House on March 30, 2021 in Brisbane, Australia. The Greater Brisbane area is under lockdown for three days, after restrictions came into effect at 5 pm on Monday. The lockdown measures for Ipswich, Logan, Redlands, Moreton and Brisbane council areas mean schools are closed and residents can only leave their homes for work and healthcare or essential shopping and exercise in their local area, and must wear face masks. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images) © 2021 Getty Images Chief Health Officer of Queensland Doctor Jeannette Young

NSW has experienced its first sighting of the COVID-19 variant which sent Victoria into lockdown after a Melbourne couple took a road trip through western NSW last week.

There were no new local cases reported across Australia on Friday, as towns along the Newell Highway remained on alert after the Melburnians stopped at a number of cafes and shops on their inland drive to the Sunshine Coast.

NSW has not recorded a local coronavirus case for 36 days, when an eastern suburbs couple tested positive. Earlier this month, it was announced another Melbourne family had visited the South Coast and Goulburn areas before testing positive in their home state.

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Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said genomic sequencing of the couple's infection was ongoing, to determine any direct matches with other cases, but they appeared to have the Kappa variant.

"It looks like they have the Kappa variant, which is slightly less infectious, but still more infectious than previous variants," she said.

Whether the couple legally entered Queensland, which had shut its borders to Melbourne residents when they crossed at Goondiwindi last week, remains under investigation.

The Kappa variant, a subvariant of the B1.617 lineage, was first detected in the Australian community in Melbourne last month but authorities were yet to see an instance of it making its way to NSW.

The eastern suburbs couple and the Melbourne family who visited the South Coast both had the related Delta variant, which is considered to be slightly more transmissible.

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The Melbourne couple visited a number of sites at Gillenbah, Forbes, Dubbo, Coonabarabran and Moree between June 1 and June 4.

More than 900 coronavirus tests were completed at clinics at Moree on Thursday, where the couple stayed overnight and visited a number of venues.

Following reports of the pop-up clinic at Gateway Puma service station becoming overwhelmed, Hunter New England Local Health District chief executive Michael DiRienzo said the town's clinics had adequate supplies and encouraged people to keep coming forward if they were at an exposure site or have symptoms.

"We are prioritising people who have been at the exposure venues to ensure timely testing for these members of the community," he said.

As well as being a rarity in the community, NSW has also seen very little of the Kappa variant in its hotel quarantine system.

Data from NSW Health's weekly COVID-19 surveillance report there were just eight cases of the Kappa variant between November 29 and last Saturday, compared to 51 of the Delta variant.

The Alpha variant, seen in large numbers in returned travellers from the UK over summer, is the most prevalent variant of concern among the state's returned travellers, with 177 cases among 802 overseas acquired infections during the time period.

There were 18,525 COVID-19 tests processed in NSW in the 24 hours to 8pm Thursday.

Lockdown restrictions were eased in Melbourne on Friday to remove stay-home requirements, allowing a return to in-person schooling and extending travel bubbles to 25 kilometres.

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