UPDATED 5PM (ADST) TUESDAY 09/02/2021
The COVID outbreak at a Victorian hotel grew to three on Tuesday afternoon, as authorities confirmed another infection in a former quarantine guest and a second worker.
The state’s health department announced on Tuesday afternoon that a former hotel guest had tested positive after completing their fortnight in quarantine at the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport.
“A strong public health response is underway, building on measures already in place,” the health department wrote in a tweet.
“They will be required to isolate for 14 days. We are in contact with this group. This will come as difficult news to them, but we are being as cautious as possible in our response to this outbreak.”
The woman tested negative several times during her quarantine stint and before leaving the hotel on Sunday.
She sought testing after becoming aware of the Holiday Inn outbreak, involving an authorised officer who tested positive the same day she left quarantine.
“Early indications are that the individual has not left her home since exiting hotel quarantine on February 7, other than to obtain a test in a COVID-safe setting,” the department tweeted.
The second worker’s infection was confirmed as Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley and chief health officer Brett Sutton called an urgent media briefing on the returned traveller’s infection.
“I can also inform Victorians that literally in the last 10 minutes we have been advised of another positive case related to the Holiday Inn,” Mr Foley said.
“This is a worker at the location who has just tested positive in the last few hours.”
Mr Foley said the second worker had the same exposure period as the first two Holiday Inn cases.
Professor Sutton has promised a “root and branch review” of Victoria’s hotel quarantine after Tuesday’s cases emerged.
“This is an issue for quarantine across the board in Victoria, across Australia and really in any country that has a formal quarantine system,” he said.
“It is probably always been a risk, but with these variants of concern, with greater transmissibility, it really does require that end-to-end review process.”
The first was a man working in the Australian Open program at the Grand Hyatt hotel. His infection was revealed last Wednesday.
The second was the first worker at the Holiday Inn. She was confirmed on Tuesday to have contracted the highly infectious British variant of the virus.
Earlier on Tuesday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the woman’s close contacts and 136 co-workers were in isolation and had been tested, with results pending.
In another development on Tuesday morning, a COVID-positive returned traveller quarantine in Victoria – at a different hotel – was transferred to intensive care.
Chief medical officer plays down vaccine concerns
Meanwhile, Australia’s chief medical officer has sought to quell concerns that the vaccine the country will have as its mainstay is ineffective against new variants of coronavirus.
Australia has so far had in its hotel quarantine system 87 cases of the so-called British variant and 18 of the South African variant of COVID-19. Both appear to be more easily transmitted and more severe than earlier forms of the virus.
South Africa suspended its rollout of the vaccine on Monday (Australian time) after data showed it gave minimal protection against mild to moderate illness caused by the country’s new strain of the virus.
“At the moment, I can absolutely say … there’s no evidence anywhere in the world AstraZeneca effectiveness against severe infection is affected by any of these variants of concern,” Professor Kelly said in Canberra on Tuesday.
He said the reports were based on a small group of people in a study not yet peer-reviewed or published in South Africa.
In coming days, Australian health officials will discuss the AstraZeneca vaccine with their British counterparts to get more detailed information ahead of the rollout. Australia has secured 50 million doses of that vaccine.