Highly infectious Delta COVID-19 virus variant have been detected in Australia’s Victoria state for the first time in the latest outbreak in Melbourne, authorities said on Friday, raising concerns of a major spike in cases.
World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the Delta variant among the four COVID-19 variants of concern due to evidence that they spread more easily, likely caused the latest devastating outbreak in India.
“It is a variant of significant concern,” Victoria state Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told reporters in Melbourne. “The fact that it is a variant different to other cases it means it is not related, in terms of transmission, with these cases.”
Sutton said the new variant had not been linked to any sequenced COVID-19 infections across Australia from hotel quarantine or elsewhere.
Sutton said it was “within the bounds of possibility” that the cases could have contracted the Delta variant in NSW but that more tests would be needed.
NSW, Australia’s most populous state, has not reported any locally acquired cases in a month.
Melbourne is into a second week of hard lockdown after it was extended for another week until June 10, but some curbs elsewhere were eased in the state from Thursday night.