Brisbane lifts virus lockdown after city finds zero cases

Australia's third-largest city lifted stay-at-home orders Monday, after mass testing and tracing across Brisbane found no new coronavirus cases despite fears over a contagious strain entering the community.

A lifeguard stands watch over a deserted South Bank beach on the first day of a snap lockdown in Brisbane on January 9, 2021, with officials elsewhere in Australia on "high alert" over the emergence of more contagious strains of the Covid-19 coronavirus. (Photo by Patrick HAMILTON / AFP)

More than two million people were ordered into a snap lockdown Friday after a cleaner at a quarantine hotel contracted the UK variant of Covid-19 from a returned traveller.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the lockdown would be lifted at 6pm local time Monday after tens of thousands of tests detected zero cases of transmission.

She defended the measures as "definitely not an over-reaction".

"We wanted to make sure we acted quickly, we acted strongly, we acted decisively and that is exactly what we did," she said.

It will remain compulsory to wear masks indoors and on public transport until January 22, while restaurants and pubs will be subject to fresh restrictions on patron numbers.

Australia's first recorded case of the UK strain in the community has also prompted authorities to slash international arrival numbers and tighten quarantine arrangements.

Until the lockdown, Brisbane was among several Australian cities enjoying a return to relative normality due to the country's success in suppressing the virus.

The UK strain is among several emerging variants around the world believed to be more infectious than those which have spread previously.

Australia has recorded almost 28,600 Covid-19 cases and 909 deaths linked to the virus, in a population of about 25 million.