“On Monday, following rapid gene sequencing, authorities advised that person was infected with one of the COVID variants of concern, which is more transmissible and presents a heightened level of risk.
“It is 15 per cent more transmissible than previous strains.“
People arriving in Australia from New Zealand have had to go into hotel quarantine since Monday, and this new arrangement will now continue until 2pm on Sunday, January 31.
“This allows for the continued protection of the people of Australia while the extent of the situation in New Zealand continues to be clarified,” Mr Kidd said.
He said all of the close contacts of the first New Zealand case and five of the 11 close contacts of the subsequent two cases have tested negative. The remaining tests are still pending.
In the meantime, Australian health authorities are trying to track down nine people who arrived in Australia after having been in quarantine at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland, from where the COVID variant is believed to have spread in New Zealand.
“Twelve people who were in quarantine at the Pullman Hotel have arrived in Sydney, three have travelled on to Honk Kong and health authorities there have been notified,” Mr Kidd said.
“Two travelled onto Queensland, and authorities there have been notified.
“The others are all being followed up in NSW and are being tested.”
He said anyone who arrived from New Zealand since January 9 is now being asked to get tested and self-isolate until they receive a negative result, particular if they stayed at the Pullman Hotel.
There have been no new cases of community transmission of the virus in Australia for 11 days.
Mr Kidd also said the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations is on track to commence in late February, with 80,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine expected to be available every week.
Australia is also expecting to receive 1.2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in March “subject to approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and final shipping confirmation”, he said.
An agreement under which Australia will produce 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine onshore is expected to begin in late March and deliver one million doses every week.
“Because of our onshore manufacturing agreement … we have certainty of vaccine supply in a time of uncertainty,” Mr Kidd said.
“There will be daily, sometimes hourly, stories coming from around the world on vaccine rollout. Some of these will affect Australia, most will not.”
Pallavi Singhal is a data journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald