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Container ship off Queensland could be carrying COVID strain never seen before in Australia

Crew onboard a cargo ship anchored off Queensland are waiting to hear if they have a strain of coronavirus never seen before in Australia.

The Sofrana Surville was prevented from docking in Brisbane, and was instead anchored off the coast of Mooloolaba on Thursday.

The New Zealand Government alerted Australian officials to the prospect of the ship carrying coronavirus after an engineer, who was on another ship, tested positive off Napier.

New Zealand authorities believe the engineer caught the virus when he was on board the Sofrana Surville in Auckland on October 12 and 13 before transferring to the Ken Rei.

New Zealand recorded 25 cases in the past 24 hours, however all cases reported are in quarantine.

Two colleagues of an Auckland port worker who had the virus contracted the disease but it’s unknown at this stage if the spread of infection is linked to the Sofrana Surville.

A spokesperson from Queensland health said all 19 crew on board the vessel will be tested.

“Queensland Health, Maritime Safety Queensland and the shipping agent are working together to support and monitor the health of the crew.

“The vessel will remain anchored off Queensland during this time.

“There are no confirmed cases currently on the ship,” the spokesperson said.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Sanjaya Senanayake says a different strain is unlikely to make someone more sick.

“What we know is this virus, like all other viruses, mutates. Every time it replicates there will be slight changes but they are unlikely to have important clinical consequences.

“When we talk about a new strain in this setting, we’re more talking about where it’s coming from. It’s not necessarily going to make you more sick or less sick but when clusters arise it can help us determine where the virus has come from and if it’s for example, an American strain or European strain.”

From January 31 to October 2, almost 10,000 vessels have entered Queensland ports and Reef Vessel Traffic Services, with mandatory protocol in place for arrivals and departures.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud insists there is no risk to the community.

“No one has left the boat and no one will leave the boat until Queensland Health officials give the all-clear around testing results,” he told 7NEWS.

It comes as Queensland recorded one new case of coronavirus, a returned overseas traveller currently in quarantine.

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