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UK Weather: Storm Eleanor smashes into Britain

Storm Eleanor hit Britain with hurricane-force winds topping 100mph triggering 'danger to life&..

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  • Storm Eleanor hit Britain with hurricane-force winds topping 100mph triggering 'danger to life' warnings
  • Yellow and amber wind warnings issued across Britain overnight and remain in place this morning (Weds)
  • A Met Office spokesperson issued a stark warnings about flying debris, high tides, flooding and felled trees
  • The M5, M25, A1M, A14 and the M48 hit by storm conditions leading to severe delays and road closures

By Rod Ardehali and Keiligh Baker for MailOnline

Published: 17:17 EST, 2 January 2018 | Updated: 05:08 EST, 3 January 2018

Commuters face chaos this morning after Storm Eleanor swept across the Atlantic and smashed Britain with hurricane-force winds of up to 100mph.

Flood warnings are in place across all of England and Wales today after the storm, with torrential rain triggering 'danger to life' warnings across the country. The Met Office has said a yellow warning including a danger to life is in place until 6pm tonight

Overturned vehicles forced closures on the A1M, M6 and M5, where a recovery operation was under way to clear up the contents of a lorry left spilled on the road, with delays expected to last well in to the morning.

An object in the overhead lines between London Paddington and Hayes reduced the number of trains leaving the major hub, while power outages halted rail services between Letchworth Garden City and Cambridge.

Meanwhile families have been forced to stack sandbags against their front doors in a desperate bid to stop sea water flooding their homes along the north coast of Cornwall this morning.

Waves up to 30ft high are overpowering coastal defences and swamping seaside towns and villages where many people are without electricity after trees brought down power lines.

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Terrifying: Massive waves crash against the harbour wall in Porthcawl, Wales, during Storm Eleanor this morning

Terrifying: Massive waves crash against the harbour wall in Porthcawl, Wales, during Storm Eleanor this morning

Battered: An aircraft struggles to land in strong winds this morning at England's highest airport, Leeds Bradford internationalBattered: An aircraft struggles to land in strong winds this morning at England's highest airport, Leeds Bradford international

Battered: An aircraft struggles to land in strong winds this morning at England's highest airport, Leeds Bradford international

Smashed: The strong winds felled this tree in Finsbury Park, north London, causing it to scrape down the side of a vintage carSmashed: The strong winds felled this tree in Finsbury Park, north London, causing it to scrape down the side of a vintage car

Smashed: The strong winds felled this tree in Finsbury Park, north London, causing it to scrape down the side of a vintage car

Clean up: Two lorries overturned during Storm Eleanor. Two lanes are closed on the motorway between junction nine for Tewkesbury and junction 8 for the M50 after a lorry overturned at around 3am this morning (Wednesday)Clean up: Two lorries overturned during Storm Eleanor. Two lanes are closed on the motorway between junction nine for Tewkesbury and junction 8 for the M50 after a lorry overturned at around 3am this morning (Wednesday)

Clean up: Two lorries overturned during Storm Eleanor. Two lanes are closed on the motorway between junction nine for Tewkesbury and junction 8 for the M50 after a lorry overturned at around 3am this morning (Wednesday)

A yellow warning of wind remains active for all of England and Wales, most of Northern Ireland and the Scottish Borders until 6pm on Wednesday after an amber warning was put in place for the early hours.

The Met Office said gusts of 100mph were recorded at Great Dun Fell in Cumbria at 1am, while wind speeds reached 90mph at Orlock Head in Northern Ireland on Tuesday evening.

Gusts up to 89mph were recorded on the Isle of Wight at around midnight, while in Northolt, north-west London, speeds of up to 73mph were detected and 77mph gusts were recorded in High Bradfield, South Yorkshire.

Meteorologist Becky Mitchell said the risk of more 'violent storm-force gusts' had lessened, although wind speeds of between 70mph and 80mph could hit some parts.

Miracle: The driver of this HGV somehow managed to escape serious harm after the lorry he was driving was blown off the M6 in CumbriaMiracle: The driver of this HGV somehow managed to escape serious harm after the lorry he was driving was blown off the M6 in Cumbria

Miracle: The driver of this HGV somehow managed to escape serious harm after the lorry he was driving was blown off the M6 in Cumbria

Scary: The storm caused this massive tree to smash into a building in Christchurch, Dorset, overnightScary: The storm caused this massive tree to smash into a building in Christchurch, Dorset, overnight

Scary: The storm caused this massive tree to smash into a building in Christchurch, Dorset, overnight

Shut off: Fire crews are working to remove the large tree from the property - it is unclear how much damage it causedShut off: Fire crews are working to remove the large tree from the property - it is unclear how much damage it caused

Shut off: Fire crews are working to remove the large tree from the property – it is unclear how much damage it caused

Dangerous: Weston-Super-Mare's coastal defences were battered by large waves overnight during the stormDangerous: Weston-Super-Mare's coastal defences were battered by large waves overnight during the storm

Dangerous: Weston-Super-Mare's coastal defences were battered by large waves overnight during the storm

Broken: The harbour wall in Portreath, Cornwall, partially collapsed after being battered by waves and wind overnightBroken: The harbour wall in Portreath, Cornwall, partially collapsed after being battered by waves and wind overnight

Broken: The harbour wall in Portreath, Cornwall, partially collapsed after being battered by waves and wind overnight

Chaos: A tree fell on the tracks at Ickenham Station in London, causing severe delays on the Metropolitan line this morningChaos: A tree fell on the tracks at Ickenham Station in London, causing severe delays on the Metropolitan line this morning

Chaos: A tree fell on the tracks at Ickenham Station in London, causing severe delays on the Metropolitan line this morning

Powerful: Waves crash against the cliffs in Portreath, Cornwall. Closer to shore, cracks began to form in the harbour wall and water poured through it, while some steps collapsed. Police said a 25ft to 30ft section was later swept further out to seaPowerful: Waves crash against the cliffs in Portreath, Cornwall. Closer to shore, cracks began to form in the harbour wall and water poured through it, while some steps collapsed. Police said a 25ft to 30ft section was later swept further out to sea

Powerful: Waves crash against the cliffs in Portreath, Cornwall. Closer to shore, cracks began to form in the harbour wall and water poured through it, while some steps collapsed. Police said a 25ft to 30ft section was later swept further out to sea

Close shave: A fallen tree blocks the A435 Birmingham Road, Mappleborough Green, Warwickshire, following the stormClose shave: A fallen tree blocks the A435 Birmingham Road, Mappleborough Green, Warwickshire, following the storm

Close shave: A fallen tree blocks the A435 Birmingham Road, Mappleborough Green, Warwickshire, following the storm

Flooding: Driven by 80mph winds, waves up to 30ft high are overpowering coastal defences and swamping seaside towns and villages (pictured: Bude in Cornwall)Flooding: Driven by 80mph winds, waves up to 30ft high are overpowering coastal defences and swamping seaside towns and villages (pictured: Bude in Cornwall)

Flooding: Driven by 80mph winds, waves up to 30ft high are overpowering coastal defences and swamping seaside towns and villages (pictured: Bude in Cornwall)

Hazard: A tree has fallen on the road that leads to Manchester United's Training ground in Carrington following strong windsHazard: A tree has fallen on the road that leads to Manchester United's Training ground in Carrington following strong winds

Hazard: A tree has fallen on the road that leads to Manchester United's Training ground in Carrington following strong winds

Emergency: Families are stacking sandbags against their front doors in a desperate bid to stop sea water flooding their homes along the north coast of Cornwall as Storm Eleanor batters Britain this morningEmergency: Families are stacking sandbags against their front doors in a desperate bid to stop sea water flooding their homes along the north coast of Cornwall as Storm Eleanor batters Britain this morning

Emergency: Families are stacking sandbags against their front doors in a desperate bid to stop sea water flooding their homes along the north coast of Cornwall as Storm Eleanor batters Britain this morning

Action shot: Photographers have flocked to Porthcawl Lighthouse in Wales, this morning as large waves batter the coastAction shot: Photographers have flocked to Porthcawl Lighthouse in Wales, this morning as large waves batter the coast

Action shot: Photographers have flocked to Porthcawl Lighthouse in Wales, this morning as large waves batter the coast

Dramatic: Waves crash over the stone jetty wall in Aberystwyth in west Wales this morning. Waves up to 30ft high are overpowering coastal defences and swamping seaside towns and villages where many people are without electricityDramatic: Waves crash over the stone jetty wall in Aberystwyth in west Wales this morning. Waves up to 30ft high are overpowering coastal defences and swamping seaside towns and villages where many people are without electricity

Dramatic: Waves crash over the stone jetty wall in Aberystwyth in west Wales this morning. Waves up to 30ft high are overpowering coastal defences and swamping seaside towns and villages where many people are without electricity

'Storm Eleanor has swept through and the eye is now crossing the North Sea, although there will continue to be strong gusts through the day,' she said.

'We have seen some heavy showers push through across the south of the UK along with hail, loud thunder and lightning, which has woken people up.

'It is possible there will be quite widespread disruption this morning and it is worth checking before you travel.'

The Severn River Crossing and the Orwell Bridge in Suffolk were closed in the early hours due to strong winds.

Waves crash against the sea wall in Aberystwyth, west Wales as Storm Eleanor hits the UK causing power cuts and disruptionWaves crash against the sea wall in Aberystwyth, west Wales as Storm Eleanor hits the UK causing power cuts and disruption

Waves crash against the sea wall in Aberystwyth, west Wales as Storm Eleanor hits the UK causing power cuts and disruption

Sea water breaches the sea walls at Mudeford Quay, Dorset last night, as Storm Eleanor battered the coastSea water breaches the sea walls at Mudeford Quay, Dorset last night, as Storm Eleanor battered the coast

Sea water breaches the sea walls at Mudeford Quay, Dorset last night, as Storm Eleanor battered the coast

A twitter user took this astonishing picture of the river Shannon bursting its banks at Bishops Quay, Limerick, IrelandA twitter user took this astonishing picture of the river Shannon bursting its banks at Bishops Quay, Limerick, Ireland

A twitter user took this astonishing picture of the river Shannon bursting its banks at Bishops Quay, Limerick, Ireland

Highways England said there was a possibility that the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge would have to close and the east tunnel of the Dartford Crossing had been shut in case it had to take diverted traffic.

Police forces in Cumbria, Suffolk, Norfolk and Humberside were among those to issue warnings that downed trees had blocked routes.

Isle of Man Police said infrastructure staff worked through the night to remove trees from the roads, while there were multiple reports of roofs coming off buildings, flooding and mud debris.

The States of Jersey Police said multiple roads remain closed due to fallen trees, stormy weather and high waves.

As well as the problems posed by high winds, the Environment Agency has issued 50 flood warnings and 110 flood alerts, with coastal areas under threat from a combination of a high tide and large waves.

In Cheshire the RSPCA was called to a road in Poynton where a swan had taken up residence in a puddle, blocking traffic.

This valiant Deliveroo cyclist was spotted battling the elements and rising flood water in order to deliver a take-away meal

A tide-battered harbour wall in Portreath, Cornwall, partially collapsed as the storm intensified this morning, police said.

Cornwall Police said they were called at around 5.50am due to a very high tide and water coming on to the road.

Closer to shore, cracks began to form in the harbour wall and water poured through it, while some steps collapsed.

A spokeswoman for Cornwall Police said a 25ft to 30ft section was later swept further out to sea.

She said: 'There is no risk to anybody, Highways England are putting bags along the road and there are barriers up as well.'

As the storm spread from Ireland into the north of England and the South East, yellow warnings were issued across Britain and amber wind warnings were issued for parts of Northern Ireland.

The Environment Agency has issued an urgent warning that 30ft waves smashing in from the Atlantic could swamp seaside roads, quays, piers and harbour walls and are telling people to remain indoors.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said 'We cannot stress enough that piers, rocks, harbours and the water's edge are not safe places to be when the weather is bad.

A car was struck by a falling tree on A35 in Hampshire and two people were taken to hospital for treatmentA car was struck by a falling tree on A35 in Hampshire and two people were taken to hospital for treatment

A car was struck by a falling tree on A35 in Hampshire and two people were taken to hospital for treatment

A flooded car park in Galway, Ireland, is pictured in the early hours of this morning after storm Eleanor hit the countryA flooded car park in Galway, Ireland, is pictured in the early hours of this morning after storm Eleanor hit the country

A flooded car park in Galway, Ireland, is pictured in the early hours of this morning after storm Eleanor hit the country

Commuters face chaos this morning after Storm Eleanor swept across the Atlantic and smashed Britain with hurricane-force winds of up to 100mph. Pictured: A fallen tree in Hunslet, Leeds Commuters face chaos this morning after Storm Eleanor swept across the Atlantic and smashed Britain with hurricane-force winds of up to 100mph. Pictured: A fallen tree in Hunslet, Leeds 

Commuters face chaos this morning after Storm Eleanor swept across the Atlantic and smashed Britain with hurricane-force winds of up to 100mph. Pictured: A fallen tree in Hunslet, Leeds

'Wave dodging or playing chicken with waves is extremely dangerous. It can be slippery and because there is little to hold on to. Even a small wave can come out of nowhere and quickly wash you into the sea.

'No photograph or selfie is worth risking your life for. The seas are unforgiving in bad weather.'

It's feared that paintings and other artwork worth up to £100,000 were ruined by Storm Eleanor this morning.

As 30ft monster waves whipped by 80mph howling gales battered the coast, onlookers said the sea wall defences were overwhelmed at St Ives in Cornwall.

Water surged along the town's streets and waves smashed down the front door of Porthminster Gallery and swirled inside where oil and water-colour paintings said to be worth 'tens of thousands of pounds' were on display.

One onlooker said 'A wave took out the inside doors of the gallery, completely flooding it.'

A fallen tree blocks the road in Tonbridge. As the storm spread from Ireland into the north of England and the South East, yellow warnings were issued across Britain and amber wind warnings were issued for parts of Northern IrelandA fallen tree blocks the road in Tonbridge. As the storm spread from Ireland into the north of England and the South East, yellow warnings were issued across Britain and amber wind warnings were issued for parts of Northern Ireland

A fallen tree blocks the road in Tonbridge. As the storm spread from Ireland into the north of England and the South East, yellow warnings were issued across Britain and amber wind warnings were issued for parts of Northern Ireland

Footage captured by those escaping the storm shows waves battering areas in Galway, causing massive flooding on the road, while Limerick and Mayo experienced torrential downpours.

Around 22,000 houses in Northern Ireland and scores more in England were affected by power cuts.

Northern Ireland Electricity Networks said it restored supply to 10,000 properties but another 12,000 would be without power overnight.

A spokesman said: 'It's very difficult to make repairs because we have to think about the safety of our employees, most repairs will start at first light.'

A number of roads were closed due to fallen trees and motorists were warned to avoid all but essential travel.

Gusts of nearly 100mph were recorded near Connaught airport in Mayo, Southern Ireland, while the highest recorded winds in Britain hit Aberdaron in west Wales reaching 76mph Gusts of nearly 100mph were recorded near Connaught airport in Mayo, Southern Ireland, while the highest recorded winds in Britain hit Aberdaron in west Wales reaching 76mph 

Gusts of nearly 100mph were recorded near Connaught airport in Mayo, Southern Ireland, while the highest recorded winds in Britain hit Aberdaron in west Wales reaching 76mph

Poor weather conditions meant Irish Sea ferry crossings from Holyhead in Anglesey were cancelled while yellow and amber warnings have been issues across Britain. The amber wind warning, valid from 19:30 until 04:00, is in place for much of Northern IrelandPoor weather conditions meant Irish Sea ferry crossings from Holyhead in Anglesey were cancelled while yellow and amber warnings have been issues across Britain. The amber wind warning, valid from 19:30 until 04:00, is in place for much of Northern Ireland

Poor weather conditions meant Irish Sea ferry crossings from Holyhead in Anglesey were cancelled while yellow and amber warnings have been issues across Britain. The amber wind warning, valid from 19:30 until 04:00, is in place for much of Northern Ireland

Roadworks affected by Storm Eleanor

Here are some of the country's travel links that have been affected as Storm Eleanor brought high winds to the UK.

  • M25 – A large tree fell on to the clockwise carriageway between junctions 17 and 18, temporarily halting all traffic. Orbital partially reopened as teams removed the obstacle.
  • M5 – Northbound carriageway closed between junctions six and five due to overturned vehicle.
  • A1M – Northbound lane closure at junction four after vehicle overturned on sliproad.
  • M48 – The Severn Crossing between Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire closed between junctions one and two due to high winds. Motorists advised to use the M4 Second Severn Crossing for South Wales.
  • A14 – Closed in both directions between junctions 56 and 57 due to high winds on the Orwell Bridge. Traffic diverted through Ipswich.

In England nearly 2,000 homes were hit by power cuts in the Midlands, as well as around 700 in the South West and 460 in Wales.

The Environment Agency issued 65 flood warnings and dozens of alerts across the country.

The Dartford Crossing bridge was closed overnight due to the dangerous wind speeds and is due to reopen in time for morning rush hour.

Vince Crane, of the AA, advised drivers to take extra care in the worsening conditions.

He said: 'Road conditions can quickly deteriorate during very heavy rainfall, with drains becoming swamped or blocked and standing water causing surface spray, reduced visibility and potentially leading to flooding.

'Drivers will need to take extra care and expect delays, even on motorways.

'Strong or sudden gusts of wind are more likely on open stretches of road, when passing bridges or gaps in hedges, or when overtaking high-sided vehicles.'

There will be a risk of 'injuries and danger to life' from flying debris and large waves along the western coast, the Met Office said.

In Wales, people have been advised to keep a safe distance from the sea as Natural Resources Wales (NRW) issued a series of flood warnings for the south-east, south-west and north coasts.

Ceri Jones, from NRW, said: 'Large waves could overtop defences and throw up debris – this could easily cause injury or knock you off your feet.'

Met Office forecaster Helen Chivers said the outlook was bleak for almost all Britons, with rain and wind expected in nearly every corner of the UK Met Office forecaster Helen Chivers said the outlook was bleak for almost all Britons, with rain and wind expected in nearly every corner of the UK 

Met Office forecaster Helen Chivers said the outlook was bleak for almost all Britons, with rain and wind expected in nearly every corner of the UK

Pembrokeshire County Council also issued a warning for several areas, including Amroth and Newgale, where overtopping waves could cause disruption.

The Met Office said: 'Public transport may be disrupted or cancelled and some bridges are likely to be closed. Power cuts and disruption to other services – mobile phones for example – may also occur, while injuries from flying debris are possible.

'Combined with a period of high tides, it is likely that some western coastal communities will be affected by large waves and spray, and again there is a chance that injuries and danger to life could occur from large waves, or beach material being thrown.'

Forecasters expect a return to 'much colder' conditions over the weekend with a risk of frost and ice, particularly in the north.

The Met Office has issued several national severe weather warnings due to the potential for travel disruption.

And the AA is expecting one of its busiest days of the year, and anticipates rescuing more than 18,000 drivers.

The Environment Agency warned earlier that strong winds and high tides could bring coastal flooding from Tuesday until Thursday.

Carol Holt, the Environment Agency's flood duty manager, said: 'We urge people to stay safe on the coast – take extreme care on coastal paths and promenades, and don't put yourself in unnecessary danger trying to take 'storm selfies'.

'If you're travelling, please check your route before setting off and don't drive through flood water.'

Deputy chief forecaster Dan Harris added that next weekend could bring a return of colder conditions with a risk of frost, ice and wintry conditions, particularly in the north.

He added: 'It could remain more unsettled in the south.

'The details of the forecast later this week and into the weekend are extremely uncertain at this stage, so my advice is to keep up to date with the latest forecasts as confidence will increase later in the week.'

Despite the warnings, a photographer also captured the moment a man balanced on rocks surrounded by dangerous waves at Godrevy Lighthouse near St Ives in Cornwall.

The photo was taken on Sunday while the coast of Cornwall was lashed by strong winds from Storm Dylan.

Moments later the rocks were submerged by the rising tide.

Photographer James Pearce said: 'The man walked slowly and purposefully with a few periods of waiting for a really big wave to pass.

'By the time I got to his position he was off somewhere else and the tide had risen above the rocks he was climbing on.

'I'd say he was at risk from a rogue wave, but he was confident in his steps and seemed quite casual. I don't think the coastguard would have taken kindly to the risk though.'

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Australia

Sydney seaplane crash: Exhaust fumes affected pilot, report confirms

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The pilot of a seaplane that crashed into an Australian river, killing all on board, had been left confused and disorientated by leaking exhaust fumes, investigators have confirmed.

The Canadian pilot and five members of a British family died in the crash north of Sydney in December 2017.

All were found to have higher than normal levels of carbon monoxide in their blood, a final report has found.

It recommended the mandatory fitting of gas detectors in all such planes.

British businessman Richard Cousins, 58, died alongside his 48-year-old fiancée, magazine editor Emma Bowden, her 11-year-old daughter Heather and his sons, Edward, 23, and William, 25, and pilot Gareth Morgan, 44. Mr Cousins was the chief executive of catering giant Compass.

The family had been on a sightseeing flight in the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver plane when it nose-dived into the Hawkesbury River at Jerusalem Bay, about 50km (30 miles) from the city centre.

The final report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) confirmed the findings of an interim report published in 2020.

It said pre-existing cracks in the exhaust collector ring were believed to have released exhaust gas into the engine bay. Holes left by missing bolts in a firewall then allowed the fumes to enter the cabin.

“As a result, the pilot would have almost certainly experienced effects such as confusion, visual disturbance and disorientation,” the report said.

“Consequently, it was likely that this significantly degraded the pilot’s ability to safely operate the aircraft.”

The ATSB recommended the Civil Aviation Safety Authority consider mandating the fitting of carbon monoxide detectors in piston-engine aircraft that carry passengers.

It previously issued safety advisory notices to owners and operators of such aircraft that they install detectors “with an active warning” to pilots”. Operators and maintainers of planes were also advised to carry out detailed inspections of exhaust systems and firewalls.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55862128

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Australia unlikely to fully reopen border in 2021, says top official

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Australia is unlikely to fully open its borders in 2021 even if most of its population gets vaccinated this year as planned, says a senior health official.

The comments dampen hopes raised by airlines that travel to and from the country could resume as early as July.

Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy made the prediction after being asked about the coronavirus’ escalation in other nations.

Dr Murphy spearheaded Australia’s early action to close its borders last March.

“I think that we’ll go most of this year with still substantial border restrictions,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday.

“Even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don’t know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus,” he said, adding that he believed quarantine requirements for travellers would continue “for some time”.

Citizens, permanent residents and those with exemptions are allowed to enter Australia if they complete a 14-day hotel quarantine at their own expense.

Qantas – Australia’s national carrier – reopened bookings earlier this month, after saying it expected international travel to “begin to restart from July 2021.”

However, it added this depended on the Australian government’s deciding to reopen borders.

Australia’s tight restrictions

The country opened a travel bubble with neighbouring New Zealand late last year, but currently it only operates one-way with inbound flights to Australia.

Australia has also discussed the option of travel bubbles with other low-risk places such as Taiwan, Japan and Singapore.

A vaccination scheme is due to begin in Australia in late February. Local authorities have resisted calls to speed up the process, giving more time for regulatory approvals.

Australia has so far reported 909 deaths and about 22,000 cases, far fewer than many nations. It reported zero locally transmitted infections on Monday.

Experts have attributed much of Australia’s success to its swift border lockdown – which affected travellers from China as early as February – and a hotel quarantine system for people entering the country.

Local outbreaks have been caused by hotel quarantine breaches, including a second wave in Melbourne. The city’s residents endured a stringent four-month lockdown last year to successfully suppress the virus.

Other outbreaks – including one in Sydney which has infected about 200 people – prompted internal border closures between states, and other restrictions around Christmas time.

The state of Victoria said on Monday it would again allow entry to Sydney residents outside of designated “hotspots”, following a decline in cases.

While the measures have been praised, many have also criticised them for separating families across state borders and damaging businesses.

Dr Murphy said overall Australia’s virus response had been “pretty good” but he believed the nation could have introduced face masks earlier and improved its protections in aged care homes.

In recent days, Australia has granted entry to about 1,200 tennis players, staff and officials for the Australian Open. The contingent – which has recorded at least nine infections – is under quarantine.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55699581

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Covid: Brisbane to enter three-day lockdown over single infection

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The Australian city of Brisbane has begun a snap three-day lockdown after a cleaner in its hotel quarantine system became infected with coronavirus.

Health officials said the cleaner had the highly transmissible UK variant and they were afraid it could spread.

Brisbane has seen very few cases of the virus beyond quarantined travellers since Australia’s first wave last year.

It is the first known instance of this variant entering the Australian community outside of hotel quarantine.

The lockdown is for five populous council areas in Queensland’s state capital.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the measure on Friday morning local time, about 16 hours after the woman tested positive.

Ms Palaszczuk said the lockdown aimed to halt the virus as rapidly as possible, adding: “Doing three days now could avoid doing 30 days in the future.”

“I think everybody in Queensland… knows what we are seeing in the UK and other places around the world is high rates of infection from this particular strain,” she said.

“And we do not want to see that happening here in our great state.”

Australia has reported 28,500 coronavirus infections and 909 deaths since the pandemic began. By contrast, the US, which is the hardest-hit country, has recorded more than 21 million infections while nearly 362,000 people have died of the disease.The lockdown will begin at 18:00 on Friday (08:00 GMT) in the Brisbane city, Logan and the Ipswich, Moreton and Redlands local government areas.

Residents will only be allowed to leave home for certain reasons, such as buying essential items and seeking medical care.

For the first time, residents in those areas will also be required to wear masks outside of their homes.

Australia has faced sporadic outbreaks over the past year, with the most severe one in Melbourne triggering a lockdown for almost four months.

A pre-Christmas outbreak in Sydney caused fresh alarm, but aggressive testing and contact-tracing has kept infection numbers low. The city recorded four local cases on Friday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has pledged to start mass vaccinations in February instead of March as was planned.

Lockdown interrupts ‘near normal’ life in Brisbane

Simon Atkinson, BBC News in Brisbane

At 8:00 today I popped to the local supermarket for some bread, milk – and because it’s summer here – a mango. I was pretty much the only customer.

When I went past the same shop a couple of hours later it was a different story – 50 people standing in the drizzle – queuing to get inside as others emerged with bulging shopping bags. “Heaps busier than Christmas,” a cheery trolley attendant told me. “It’s off the scale”.

Despite the “don’t panic” messages from authorities, pictures on social media show it’s a pattern being repeated across the city.

While shutdowns are common around the world, the tough and sudden stay-at-home order for Brisbane has caught people on the hop here after months of near normality.

But while such a rapid, hard lockdown off the back of just a single case of Covid-19 will seem crazy in some parts of the world, I’ve not come across too many people complaining.

And I don’t think that’s just because Aussies love to follow a rule. This is the first time the UK variant of the virus has been detected in the community in Australia.

And nobody here wants Brisbane to go through what Melbourne suffered last year. Even if it means going without mangoes.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55582836

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