Australia What we know about Victoria's new COVID-19 hotel quarantine cases
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Hotel quarantine is once again a cause for concern in Victoria with a case of COVID-19 confirmed in a hotel quarantine worker linked to the Australian Open, and transmission of COVID-19 between different rooms in a separate quarantine hotel.
Late on Wednesday night the Department of Health and Human Services announced a 26-year-old Australian Open quarantine support worker had returned a positive test result after working at the Grand Hyatt.
Earlier on Wednesday health officials said
Australian hotels say COVID-19 quarantine contracts 'far from a licence to print money'
Hotel quarantine contracts are keeping some companies afloat, but occupancy rates are still well-down on pre-COVID levels and it could take years before many city hotels return to profitability.Quarantine contracts with state governments and federal agencies have provided business for many otherwise-empty Australian hotels, with Sydney's CBD hotels taking in the bulk of overseas arrivals.
So what do we know about the news cases? And what does it mean for Victoria?
What do we know about the hotel worker case?
Mr Andrews said the worker is a 26-year-old man from Noble Park who last worked at the Grand Hyatt on January 29th - he returned a negative test result after that shift but later developed symptoms.
Mr Andrews said authorities were investigating how the man contracted the virus.
"We can't particularly determine how it is the person became infected given that they produced negative test results," he said.
"All of that will become clearer with a combination of CCTV footage, genomic sequencing, further testing, all of that coronavirus detective work that is already well and truly underway."
Authorities don't yet know if the case is the more contagious UK strain of the virus butin Brisbane and Perth saw both those cities going into short periods of lockdown.
Claims hotel quarantine security guards in WA are foreign students
An insider has blasted Western Australia's hotel quarantine system and accused security companies of hiring and exploiting foreign students. The source claimed guards were paid minimum wage in cash and off the books so they could work double the 20 hours allowed under their visa arrangements. It was also alleged that hotel security guards were sharing IDs so they could get away with working a second job such as driving for Uber. The insider told The West the security services in the state were run by a 'bunch of cowboys'.
Other members of the man's household have been isolated and health authorities have released a list of exposure sites.
Authorities are urging anyone who visited an exposure site at a relevant time to get tested on Thursday morning.
- Lululemon DFO in Moorabbin from 5:00pm — 5:45pm on January 29
- Woolworths in Springvale from 6.30pm — 7.30pm on January 29
- Club Noble in Noble Park from 2:36pm — 3:30pm on January 30
- Aces Sporting Club (Driving Range) in Keysborough from 10:00pm — 11:15pm on January 30
- Northpoint Café in Brighton from 8:10am — 9:30am on January 31
- Kmart in Keysborough from 4:00pm — 5:00pm on January 31
- Kmart in Brandon Park from 4:35pm — 5:10pm on January 31
- Coles in Springvale from 5:00pm — 6:00pm on January 31
- Bunnings in Springvale from 11:28am — 12:15pm on February 1
- Nakama Workshop in Clayton South from 11:15am — 12:00pm on February 1
- Sharetea in Springvale from 6:45pm — 7:30pm on February 1
- Kebab Kingz in West Melbourne from 11:24pm — 00:15am on February 1
- Exford Hotel in Melbourne from 11:00pm — 11:35pm on February 1
- Golf Academy in Heatherton from 5:19pm — 6:30pm on February 1
Mr Andrews said the man was a CFA volunteer and had attended one volunteer event.
Australian Open in chaos after hotel worker caught Covid-19
A testing blitz is now underway with 600 tennis stars, officials and support staff identified as close contacts of the 26-year-old, who worked at the Grand Hyatt hotel. The worker is expected to have contracted the ultra-infectious UK mutant strain, and has a 'high viral load' - meaning any close contact may have received a high enough dose to become infected.More infectious than other variants of Covid-19, it has already spread from one hotel room to another at another Melbourne quarantine facility - with officials fearing even doors opening at the same time could let the mutant in.
He said the CFA had been contacting brigades and doing deep deep cleaning.
Mr Andrews said health authorities would work with the CFA to identify any contacts.
"We are confident people will get the information they need as quickly as possible," he said.
Victoria's COVID-19 testing commander Jeroen Weimar said contact tracing work would continue throughout the night with a focus on reaching people who had been to the exposure sites at the same times as the hotel worker.
"We are also sending out messages and reaching out to all of the work colleagues of this individual, they will also be instructed to isolate and to get tested," he said.
What do we know about the case of COVID-19 spreading between rooms?
On Wednesday Victorian health authorities said a family of five who arrived in Melbourne from Nigeria and a woman who arrived from Malaysia had tested positive.
The family was in a different quarantine room to the woman, but they were staying on the same floor of the Park Royal Hotel.
The woman had arrived in Melbourne on January 11 and tested negative to the virus on day three and 11 of her stay.
The Pandemic Is in Tenuous Retreat
New COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths all dropped this week.The good news in COVID-19 data continued this week, as new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths all dropped. For the seven-day period running January 28 to February 3, weekly new cases were down more than 16 percent over the previous week, and dropped below 1 million for the first time since the week of November 5. This is still an astonishing number of new cases a week, but far better than the nearly 1.8 million cases reported the week of January 14. Tests also declined nationally, but by less than 3 percent, nowhere near enough to explain the steep drop in cases.
The woman's husband joined her in quarantine on January 16 and she decided to stay on in the hotel with him for his quarantine period.
On January 20 the family of five arrived at the hotel to quarantine, testing positive for COVID-19 four days later.
The woman in the separate hotel room then tested positive on January 28.
Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said "what we've seen is a transmission that has occurred between two guest rooms".
She described it as an "interesting case" where the "working assumption" was that the viral load of one of the family groups was so high that the virus travelled through the hotel, just by the family opening the door to their room to get food or drop off laundry.
Genomic sequencing showed the cases in the two different rooms had an "identical" strain of the virus.
Do we know how the virus spread between the two rooms?
The short answer is that is still under investigation.
Ms Neville said a review of CCTV vision from the hotel showed there had been no breaches of infection control protocols on that floor of the hotel.
She said a report done when the hotel was first set up for quarantine purposes showed there was no shared ventilation.
But she said airflow was again being reviewed and health teams were making sure a fire escape located between the rooms did not have an impact on the spread.
Hotel bookings for quarantine being made 'at pace'
The government is trying to secure thousands of rooms for new quarantine rules from 15 February.Ministers plan for more than 1,000 UK residents a day to return from places where new variants are prevalent.
Ms Neville said one of the positive cases told authorities she remembered opening the door at the same time as someone on the floor, which was being looked at as a possible source of transmission.
When Victoria's Deputy Chief Health Officer, Melanie Van Twest, was asked whether the virus had spread through aerosol transmission, she said she was not "willing to put a name to it at the moment."
But Professor Van Test did say it was it was "clearly something that has hung around in the air."
Does the community need worry about these cases?
Ms Neville said the Victorian public health team looking at the cases had determined there was an "exceptionally low risk" of community transmission from the cases.
No staff have tested positive for the virus at that hotel and there has been daily testing.
But Ms Neville said some 100 workers were sent home and were being tested out of "an abundance of caution."
While 37 former occupants of the affected floor at the hotel were isolating at home and being tested.
What restrictions are changing?
Victoria has reintroduced mask wearing indoors, private gatherings will be restricted to 15 people and a scheduled return to the workplace for more workers will be delayed.
The State Government had planned to have up to 75 per cent of workers back in offices from Monday but that will now be paused.
Mr Andrews said Victoria was returning to the same restriction levels the state faced during the Black Rock restaurant outbreak over Christmas.
Will the Australian Open go ahead?
Mr Andrews said there would be some impact on players and officials preparing for the Australian Open.
"There is a number of about 500, 600 people who are players and officials and others who are casual contacts," he said.
"They will be isolating until they get a negative test and that work will be done tomorrow."
Mr Andrews said they may impact on play in lead-up tournaments taking place on Thursday.
"But at this stage there is no impact to the tournament proper," he said.
Will there be extra testing sites in Melbourne?
There will be extra testing sites and existing testing sites will increase their capacity.
Mr Weimar said all 13 major testing sites in the south-east of Melbourne will open from 8AM Thursday with additional drive-though testing lanes.
Additional sites will be opened in Brighton and at Monash University.
Coronavirus infections in hotel quarantine workers makes it 'wrong time' to increase international arrivals, epidemiologist warns .
Hotel quarantine workers should be at the front of the queue for vaccinations, a Melbourne epidemiologist says, and Australia should not be letting more people into the country until vaccinations are complete.Nancy Baxter, who is the head of the School of Population at the University of Melbourne, said coronavirus was becoming more infectious and a Melbourne hotel quarantine worker's positive test on the weekend was cause for concern.