SYDNEY: Australia's Queensland state will enforce a three-day lockdown in Brisbane, the state capital, from Friday (Jan 8) evening after a quarantine hotel worker tested positive for the more contagious variant of COVID-19 that has emerged in Britain.
"We know that the level of infection is very high in this particular variant. We have to act differently to what we had before. Any delay could see significant, if not catastrophic results," state Health Minister Yvette D'Ath told reporters on Friday.
The decision to temporarily shut down Australia's third-largest city came hours before a special national Cabinet meeting to consider a proposal from the country's expert medical panel to further tighten rules for international travellers.
Brisbane's more than 2 million residents must wear masks and can go outside only for one of four essential reasons - grocery shopping, work, exercise or medical treatment.
"If we do not do this now, it could end up being a 30-day lockdown," state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
Australia is on course to begin administering the first COVID-19 vaccines in February as it tries to contain the spread of infections in its largest cities of Sydney and Melbourne.
Queensland state reported no new local cases on Friday, but the UK variant case has sparked fears of a wider outbreak. Victoria, the country's second-most populous state, reported no cases for the second straight day.
Australia has reported a total of more than 28,500 COVID-19 cases and 909 deaths since the pandemic began, with border closures and speedy tracking systems helping keep numbers relatively low.