Authorities in the Australian state of Victoria said genomic sequencing has detected for the first time the Delta COVID-19 virus variant among infections in the latest outbreak in Melbourne, the state capital and Australia’s second-biggest city.
“That variant is the Delta variant, it is now infamous in India and increasingly found in the United Kingdom. It is a variant of significant concern,” Victoria state Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told reporters in Melbourne on Friday.
Sutton said the new variant had not been linked to any sequenced COVID-19 cases in other parts of Australia either in hotel quarantine or elsewhere.
So far, two Victoria cases have the so-called Delta variant of concern, which is thought to be behind the recent devastating wave of COVID-19 in India.
“It is a concern that it is not linked to other cases but we are chasing down all those primary-case contacts … and looking into where it might have been acquired,” Sutton said.
Following the latest update, The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported that the family from Melbourne diagnosed with the Delta strain had travelled to New South Wales (NSW) in the days leading up to their positive tests.
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly was quoted as saying that federal health officials are meeting on Friday to discuss the news.
“That’s another mystery for us to work on,” he said.
Extended Melbourne lockdown
Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous state, is battling to contain its latest outbreak – 65 cases since May 24 – after more than three months of no cases, placing tough restrictions on the movement of people and shutting down large parts of its economy.
The government has linked all the cases to a single traveller released from quarantine in neighbouring South Australia after testing negative.
Melbourne is into the week of hard lockdown but some curbs elsewhere were eased in the state from Thursday night.
Authorities blamed the extension of tough curbs in the city until June 10 on the Kappa variant, first detected in India, which they described as a highly infectious strain.
New cases have remained in single digits for eight days in a row. Four new locally acquired cases were reported on Friday, compared with three a day earlier.
Snap lockdowns, regional border restrictions and strict social distancing rules have largely helped Australia rein in prior outbreaks and keep its COVID-19 numbers relatively low at just over 30,100 cases and 910 deaths.
More than 4.6 million vaccine doses have been administered as of Wednesday in Australia, which has an adult population of about 20 million.