Australia records first local Covid-19 case in 2 weeks

Australia has reported just over 29,000 coronavirus infections and 909 Covid-19 deaths.
Australia has reported just over 29,000 coronavirus infections and 909 Covid-19 deaths.PHOTO: AFP

CANBERRA (REUTERS) - Australia on Saturday (March 13) recorded its first local Covid-19 case in more than two weeks after a doctor tested positive for the coronavirus, triggering restrictions in area hospitals.

Queensland state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the unnamed doctor last week treated two patients who had recently returned to Australia and had tested positive for the UK variant.

"We know this doctor, who assessed these two Covid-positive patients was at the hospital at the time. Now, she developed symptoms," Ms Palaszczuk told reporters in the state capital, Brisbane.

It was Australia's first local infection since Feb 24.

The doctor, whose name was not released, treated patients, forcing authorities into urgent contact-tracing, Ms Palaszczuk said. The authorities have yet to determine how many people the doctor treated.

As officials seek to determine the size of the outbreak, Ms Palaszczuk said, all hospitals in the state capital will be closed to visitors.

Australia has reported just over 29,000 coronavirus infections and 909 Covid-19 deaths, far fewer than many developed countries, helped by international border closures, lockdowns and strict social-distancing rules.

In neighbouring New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Saturday the country will reopen its borders for the first time to allow residents of Niue, a small Pacific country, to enter.

They will not have to quarantine on their arrival from March 24, Ms Arden said.

"Niue has no reported cases of Covid-19 and its stringent border controls mean we can be confident it is safe to commence quarantine-free travel to New Zealand from Niue," Ms Ardern said in an emailed statement.