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Coronavirus latest news: Australia cuts arrivals by half in bid to contain new UK Covid strain

Australia is nearly halving the number of passengers allowed to arrive by plane in a bid to prevent the spread of a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus first identified in Britain.

A cleaner at a Brisbane quarantine hotel diagnosed with Covid-19 on Wednesday is the first person infected with the variant found in the Australian community. Other cases have been detected among travellers while in hotel quarantine, where there is little risk of community spread.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said state leaders had agreed that international arrivals to New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia state airports would be halved until Feb. 15. Arrivals at Victoria were already relatively low and would remain unchanged.

Authorities in Brisbane are locking Australia’s third-most populous city down for three days beginning tonight to contain the spread.

Follow the latest updates below.

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5:53AM

Study suggests Pfizer vaccine effective against new variants

Pfizer Inc and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine appeared to work against a key mutation in the highly transmissible new variants of the coronavirus discovered in the UK and South Africa, according to a laboratory study conducted by the US drugmaker.

The not-yet peer reviewed study by Pfizer and scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch indicated the vaccine was effective in neutralizing virus with the so-called N501Y mutation of the spike protein.

The mutation could be responsible for greater transmissibility and there had been concern it could also make the virus escape antibody neutralization elicited by the vaccine, said Phil Dormitzer, one of Pfizer’s top viral vaccine scientists.

Read more: Pfizer vaccine works against new Covid mutations, drugmaker says

5:32AM

London landmarks light up blue for NHS

Iconic landmarks in London lit up blue last night in a renewed gesture of thanks to the NHS and frontline workers.

Well-known buildings and sporting and entertainment venues across the capital illuminated in blue to celebrate the hundreds of workers who have put their lives on the line during the pandemic to help others.

Trafalgar Square, Wembley Arch and the London Eye along the South Bank were among several landmarks that joined the £LightItBlue campaign which began last year.

Blue lights beamed from the spires of The Shard, as well as the globe atop Madame Tussauds.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “It is a very challenging time for our city and nation, and we owe a great debt to our NHS and key workers who are working so incredibly hard to serve our city.

“By lighting up buildings in blue in their honour, our capital is again standing together to thank them for their tremendous efforts.”These workers deserve our praise and our thanks, and I urge Londoners to continue following the lockdown rules so they can play their part in supporting the NHS and save lives.”

The London Eye in Southbank, London

The London Eye in Southbank, London

Credit:
PA

The Trafalgar Square fountains in London

The Trafalgar Square fountains in London

Credit:
PA

The Shard in London

The Shard in London

Credit:
PA

4:42AM

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