Healthcare workers in NSW are currently treating 14 people infected by mutant strains of the coronavirus, officials have revealed.
Because of its ample opportunity to spread globally the coronavirus has mutated into new, more contagious strains in several countries, including the UK and South Africa.
Although those strains haven’t been proven to be more deadly, they’re believed to be more transmissible.
The UK strain first entered Australia last month via an overseas passenger, and since then there have been a total of 18 cases associated with mutant strains in NSW, the state’s deputy chief health officer Jeremy McAnulty said.
Of those infected people, 14 are still being treated in special health accommodation.
“We have processes in place where there‘s a review of every person in the special health accommodation with COVID, to make sure they’re being tested for the variants of concern and then an expert panel will assist in making sure they‘re not discharged prior to them being safely to be discharged,” Dr McAnulty said.
“They’re named after the country where they were first identified, but that doesn’t mean they’re not in many other countries as well. Of those 18 in total, we’ve had five from (the) South Africa strain, and the remainder (were from) the UK strain.”
The infected people include a family-of-four who were confirmed last week to have tested positive to the South African strain after arriving in hotel quarantine in Sydney.
Health officials have previously said they expect the more transmissible strains to become dominant.
“We have to assume that these more transmissible variants of the disease will become the more dominant disease,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Wednesday.
The spread of the new strain, and reports of at least one other mutant strain evolving elsewhere, have prompted NSW authorities to modify the state‘s guidelines around quarantining.
“We need to make clear, that if you do have one of these variants, the clock starts ticking for your hotel quarantine on the day your symptoms materialise, not the day you entered quarantine,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“This is a significant thing to learn. If it means we have to tighten up around hotel quarantine, this is the time to make those evaluations. It gives us time to do that.”