Australia How did Brisbane's COVID-19 quarantine hotel breach happen?
NSW quarantine hotel COVID cases probed
NSW Health is investigating the source of a COVID-19 case in hotel quarantine which has an identical viral sequence to two cases in an adjacent room.It's unclear how and where transmission occurred from a couple to another returned traveller who were all staying on the fourth floor of Sydney's Radisson Blu quarantine hotel.
Authorities are scrambling to determine how a flight attendant contracted COVID-19 from a person staying on a different floor of hotel quarantine in Brisbane.
The case of the, during which she returned multiple negative tests, has authorities scratching their heads.
Genome sequencing has confirmed the woman caught the virus in hotel quarantine and not from a passenger on the flight to Australia.
They believe she contracted it from a member of another airline's cabin crew who was staying on a different floor of the hotel and who flew in from another country.
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A major contact tracing effort is underway to determine how a member of an international flight crew could test positive to COVID-19 just hours after finishing 14-days of mandatory hotel quarantine in Queensland. The woman, who arrived in Brisbane from Dubai on June 5 as part of an Emirates crew, left hotel quarantine at 9:00am on Saturday.While in quarantine, she underwent three routine COVID-19 tests, all of which were negative.After leaving quarantine on Saturday, the woman had a further test in accordance with Queensland Health requirements for returning international flight crew.
But how could that happen?
What does it say about the effectiveness of our hotel quarantine arrangements?
Virologist Nigel McMillan of Griffith University calls it "a mystery" that could have a "simple" explanation.
We asked Professor McMillan to address some of your questions.
How did she test positive if she'd been in quarantine?
The woman arrived in Brisbane from Portugal and went immediately into mandatory hotel quarantine, where she was tested three times.
She left quarantine at 9:00am on Saturday and, in accordance with Queensland Health requirements for international flight crew, underwent a further test later that day.
This is when she tested positive. A contact tracing effort was launched, with multiple locations in Brisbane named as exposure sites, including the DFO shopping complex near the airport.
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Much of Asia cannot (or will not) yet get jabbed, so the region is still having to rely on suppression tactics.The true guests, the ones sleeping in the rooms at night, were a few floors above—and they had not checked in for leisure. Their faint figures could be seen through wide windows, walking the short distances across their temporary residences or looking longingly down at the pool from the gilded cages where they were spending two, or in some cases three, weeks under government-mandated quarantine. The Kerry Hotel offers many trappings of luxury, but freedom of movement is not currently one of them.
Professor McMillan said while there had previously been instances of spread across the same hotel floors, he could not recall another case of infection moving between floors.
"It could have been incidental — a door handle, a lift button, something as simple as that," he said.
"It could potentially be that there's a ventilation issue between those two floors [or] it could be via an intermediary, that could be possible.
"These are all things that Queensland Health will be looking at."
Professor McMillan said there was one other unlikely possibility: "It could be that she got the same virus well before her travel and she's just a very late developer, but I don't think that's the likely explanation."
Does she have a more infectious strain?
Initial investigations indicated the woman had the more infectious Delta variant of COVID-19.
But subsequent genome testing revealed she has the B117 — or Alpha strain — of the virus, known as the UK variant.
Can you test negative for COVID-19 but still transmit the virus to other people?
Authorities believe a quarantine hotel worker may have inadvertently transmitted the COVID-19 virus between two guests, but how can someone do that without testing positive themselves?The theory is the staff member inadvertently passed a variant of the virus from one traveller to another who was staying on a different floor of the hotel.
Professor McMillan said Queenslanders are lucky the woman does not have the more contagious strain, because this means theis lower.
"If we look at the infectivity of the UK strain, we use this figure called R0 (R-nought)," he explained," he said.
"Essentially, what it means is if one person has it, they will pass it on to about four other people.
"The original Wuhan strain is roughly two [and] in the new strains, the Delta-Kappa strains from India, that figure is somewhere between six and eight.
"So, we're lucky in the sense that it could have been worse — but it's still highly infectious."
Does this mean hotel quarantine doesn't work?
The virus has undergone multiple mutations since the beginning of the pandemic, often resulting in more contagious or deadlier forms of the virus.
Professor McMillan said the hotel quarantine system has been working "very well" based on the latest data, but there were drawbacks.
"We've seen 350,000 people [go] through the system and less than 20 escapes [of the virus]," he said.
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"But that has resulted in two lockdowns in Brisbane and a short lockdown in Western Australia and longer lockdowns in Melbourne."
Professor McMillan said if Australia wanted to bring back international students and expats, larger quarantine facilities similar to those at Howard Springs in the Northern Territory would be required.
"We know that 95 per cent of people will be positive by day 14," he said.
"Given the success of the program in terms of the figures, the cases of people who have become positive after testing negative is quite small, so I don't think we need to go to 21 days [quarantine] at all."
Singapore and Hong Kong recently extended their quarantine periods from 14 days to 21 days.
The Commonwealth has recentlyto be built in Melbourne – in addition to one that has been operating in the Northern Territory.
However, a Queensland proposal has been dismissed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on multiple occasions.
Could it have spread via airborne transmission?
Experts have previously warned thatcould be the "gap" in Australia's quarantine system.
After Brisbane's Hotel Grand Chancellor cluster, occupational hygienists suggested the possible cause of the outbreak was "aerosol spread or airborne transmission" between rooms of the quarantine hotel.
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Ventilation and the indoorand touted as potential culprits in spreading the virus.
Could we be facing another COVID-19 outbreak?
It is still too early to tell.
Professor McMillan said the virus could be detected within five days of exposure, on average, while symptoms could be detected at three days.
“I think two days is probably fairly short [but it] depends on the sensitivity of the test," he said.
"Ultimately, the people at the DFO on Saturday, they want to get tested today, tomorrow, Wednesday.”
For now, Queensland Health have released a list of exposure zones and anyone who visited these locations is being urged to get tested immediately.
So far, no community transmission has occurred – but more will come to light as authorities look further at this specific case.
Victoria Police won't hesitate to issue $5k fine for border breaches .
Victoria's police chief has warned the window of discretion for people attempting to unlawfully enter the state was "rapidly closing".