A more contagious strain of Covid-19 that has been battering the UK and caused all hope for a normal Christmas to be dashed has been found in Australia.
The new variant, which is believed to be around 70 per cent more viral, is thought to be responsible for the rapid rise in cases in recent days in the UK.
It has seen London and some of the South East move from Tier Two to Tier Four of England's coronavirus restrictions within a matter of days.
Australian authorities have declared two travellers have arrived from the UK who have tested positive for this new strain.
They have been in hotel quarantine and won't be allowed out until they test negative. They are not responsible for the recent outbreak on Sydney's Northern Beaches and no case from that cluster has the strain.
NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant confirmed to reporters: "I'm advised that we've had a couple of UK returned travellers with the particular mutations you're referring to."
The World Health Organization says it first identified this strain in September has called it the 'VUI-202021/01' variant.
Scientists are racing to see whether vaccines that have already been approved will still be effective against this new strain.
Vin Gupta, an affiliate assistant professor from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, believes it should still work in the same way.
"There is a strong belief here that the vaccine, as it exists today...will have effectiveness in warding off infection from this new strain in England, in addition to the old strain that we've been contending with for months now," he said.
Europe isn't taking any chances and some countries have barred travel from the UK.
The Netherlands and Belgium have already suspended all flights from Britain, and trains entering Belgium have also been banned.
Italy's foreign minister has said they too will impose a ban on travel from the UK, and France and Germany are among a host of other countries thought to be planning to take a similar course.
The variant has also been detected in South Africa, and a source from Germany's healthy ministry told AFP the country was considering banning flights from there, as well as the UK.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the planned relaxation of rules around Christmas would be scrapped for those areas at very short notice for the millions who had planned to take advantage of the opportunity to meet with up to three households between 23 and 27 December.Featured Image Credit: PA