Qld calls capital lockdown as leaders meet

Queensland has pre-empted emergency national cabinet discussions on the highly-infectious UK strain of COVID-19, declaring a weekend lockdown in the Greater Brisbane area after a case of the strain was confirmed.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the Greater Brisbane region would be in lockdown from 6 pm on Friday until 6 pm on Monday after a cleaner at a quarantine hotel was diagnosed with the UK variant.

Masks will also be mandatory for those needing to go outside in this area.

“It is incredibly important in this time to stop the spread of this infectious UK strain, we must act immediately, we must act strongly and we have taken those strong measures today,” the premier told reporters.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has brought forward a national cabinet meeting with premiers and chief ministers a month earlier than initially planned to discuss the UK virus which has caused a sharp rise in cases in England.

Medical experts will present a detailed report on the UK virus which is 70 per cent more infectious than other strains.

“There is a lot of advice going into national cabinet today,” Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly told ABC television.

“What comes out of national cabinet, of course, is for them to decide. We will be talking about how to keep Australians safe from this very large global pandemic that’s happening in other parts of the world.”

Also on the agenda will be state and territory involvement in the rollout of vaccines, which is set to start in February.

Approval of the Pfizer vaccine is expected this month, while the AstraZeneca version being made by CSL in Melbourne is expected to get the tick in February.

The government is hopeful a network of vaccination hubs will be able to deliver it to four million Australians by the end of March.

The first people to be vaccinated will be quarantine and border workers, frontline health officials, aged care and disability workers and aged care residents.

It would then be rolled out gradually to all Australians via a broader network of clinics and pharmacies.

Professor Kelly said the success of the vaccine will require at least two thirds of the nation to be vaccinated, but reiterated it will be voluntary and free.

“We are looking at as many as possible and we really will be encouraging everyone to come forward and have that vaccination,” he later told Sky News.

Queensland reported nine new COVID-19 cases in hotel quarantine, while Victoria reported a sole case, also in quarantine.

NSW is expected to record at least one new case linked to the northern beaches cluster, an infection that was discovered after the usual cut off period the day before.

The case triggered new coronavirus alerts for a supermarket and discount chemist in Avalon where the man shopped between January 2 and 6.

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