Victorian authorities believe the COVID infection in a quarantine worker that has forced more than 1000 people into isolation may be due to airborne transmission of the deadly virus.
States have been quick to adjust their rules for Victorian travellers following the infection.
Some flights have reportedly been held on the tarmac at Sydney airport, as authorities look to organise screening following the new positive case in Victoria.
It is understood that health screening will take place at the gate as passengers disembark with temperature checks part of the precautionary measures taken.
South Australia Premier Steven Marshall said his state will keep its border with Victoria open but will require anybody travelling from the Greater Melbourne to undergo checks until a negative test result is returned.
“We are asking people coming in from the Greater Melbourne area to have a PCR test – this is the nasal and throat swab – on days one, five and 12 and, at this stage, to isolate after the first test pending that result coming back.
“Anybody who has been at the Grand Hyatt from the 28th (January) will need to go into hotel quarantine in South Australia … immediately contact SA Health to arrange that isolation.”
Queensland is requiring anyone who has been in Melbourne since January 29 to isolate at home until they have a negative test result. Anyone who has been to one of the expanding list of exposure sites must quarantine for 14 days.
Chief health officer Jeannette Young advised Queenslanders not to travel to greater Melbourne unless it was urgent.
“If things do deteriorate in Victoria, which I’m very hopeful they won’t, … they may be caught and have to then quarantine when they return home to Queensland,” she said.
“At this stage, it’s a watching brief.”
Premier Daniel Andrews said authorities were still trying to work out how the 26-year-old man from Noble Park, in Melbourne’s south-east, caught the virus.
“We have reviewed literally days of CCTV footage, and this person … has been a model employee, whether it is doffing and donning PPE, all the protocols,” he said on Thursday.
The man was working with quarantined Australian Open tennis players and support staff at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Melbourne’s CBD until last Friday. He tested negative for COVID after his last shift but subsequently developed symptoms and was retested, with a positive result on Wednesday.
The confirmation has thrown the Australian Open into chaos, with hundreds of players and others involved forced into isolation until they get a negative COVID test. All warm-up matches for the Open were cancelled on Thursday.
Mr Andrews said the 19 of the man’s 20 close contacts had been traced and tested. Early results are so far negative, which he said was “positive news”.
He said the infected worker had been “more than co-operative” and had provided detailed information about his movements at work and in the wider community.
The man worked on the same floor of the Grand Hyatt as several of the coronavirus cases linked to the Australian Open.
Mr Andrews said “step-by-step painstaking detective work” was being done to try to find out how he caught the virus.
“One thing is we can’t rule out is aerosol transmission, airborne transmission,” he said.
“That is challenging, very, very challenging. AHPPC has been dealing with some of these issues. No doubt this will be a feature of the report that I will give to national cabinet tomorrow.”
Following the positive tests, Victorians must again wear face masks and limit household gatherings.
Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said the government must make a call soon about whether the Australian Open could go ahead.
“We don’t want to see a situation as we did [in 2020] with the Grand Prix, where crowds were literally turning out to be let in, only to be turned away,” he said.
“The government needs to decide whether it is safe for the Australian Open to proceed.”
It’s not yet known if the man is carrying a potent offshore variant of the virus.
Health authorities are awaiting further genomic test results to confirm the origin of the man’s virus. Those results are expected on Friday.
The worker’s positive case comes after Victorian authorities confirmed on Wednesday the transmission of a coronavirus case between guests in separate hotel quarantine rooms.
Two groups of guests in opposite rooms at Melbourne’s Park Royal Hotel tested positive for the more infectious British variant of the coronavirus.
The infected hotel worker has been confirmed as locally-acquired case, breaking Victoria’s 28-day clean slate.
There were also two new cases in hotel quarantine, with 21 active cases and 13,675 tests.
Elsewhere, there were lengthy queues at Melbourne testing sites on Thursday as thousands turned out. Victorian testing commander Jeroen Weimar said more sites were being set up, and hours extended at others.
“This is all about creating the capacity, not only for the people who are in that close contact field, but for any Victorian who at this point has any concerns they may have been in contact with this individual or anybody who is displaying symptoms,” he said.
- Get the latest information on Victorian testing sites and likely waits here
Current Victorian alert sites
Visitors to the following venues at the specified times must isolate for 14 days and get tested:
- Exford Hotel, Melbourne, January 29, 11-11.30pm
- Kebab Kingz, West Melbourne, January 29, 11.24pm-12.15am
- Club Noble, Noble Park, January 30, 2.30-3.30pm
- Aces Sporting Club, Keysborough, January 30, 10-11.15pm
- Northpoint Cafe, Brighton, January 31, 8.10-9.30am
- Kmart Keysborough, January 31, 4-5pm
- Kmart Brandon Park, January 31, 4.30-5.10pm
- Coles Springvale, January 31, 5-6pm
- Nakama Workshop, Clayton South, February 1, 11.15am-midday
- Bunnings Springvale, February 1, 11.30am-12.15pm
- Lululemon Moorabbin DFO, February 1, 5-5.45pm
- Melbourne Golf Academy, Heatherton, February 1, 5.15-6.40pm
- Woolworths Springvale, February 1, 6.30-7.30pm
- Sharetea, Springvale, February 1, 6.50-7.30pm
- This list will be updated regularly. See here for latest details