Urgent National Cabinet meeting called as PM responds to the UK Covid strain

The prime minister has called a special meeting of National Cabinet on Friday morning after three further cases of the more transmissible UK variant of COVID-19 were detected in Australia.

Scott Morrison said Premiers and Chief Ministers would convene to consider a proposal from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee “to further strengthen the COVID safety of end to end international travel processes”.

The proposal looks at the process from arrival at airports in other countries to final clearance from hotel quarantine in Australia.

“This is being done particularly in the context of the UK strain,” he said.

Morrison said the AHPPC had met regularly to discuss the proposal before making a formal submission to National Cabinet.

“The meeting will also provide an opportunity to further update National Cabinet on the Federal Government’s vaccination programme, where considerable progress is being made over the break,” Morrison added.

‘We’re not out of the woods’
It comes a day after three people who tested positive for COVID-19 while in hotel quarantine in Perth were found to have the more transmissible UK variant of the virus.

Premier Mark McGowan said genome sequencing had confirmed the UK strain, emphasising the importance of the state’s secure quarantine arrangements.

He said anyone who interacts with the three travellers would need to follow all protocols in relation to dealing with confirmed cases.

“It just goes to show that we’re not out of the woods with COVID,” the premier said on Tuesday.

“It’s insidious. It’s out there, it’s causing havoc around the world. It’s causing mass deaths in Britain and the United States.

“We are COVID free, and therefore we are very fortunate and I want to keep it that way.”

NSW, Victoria and South Australia had all previously recorded cases of the UK variant in returned overseas travellers.

It is believed to be up to 70 per cent more infectious, causing a sharp rise in cases in England and prompting British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to order a new national lockdown until at least mid-February.

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