News Coronavirus Infected hotel quarantine worker’s 17 close contacts return negative results
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Infected hotel quarantine worker’s 17 close contacts return negative results

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Victoria’s chief health officer says he’s surprised that all 17 close contacts of an infected hotel quarantine worker have returned negative results.

The man’s case brought the state’s 28-day run of zero community transmission to an end and prompted the reintroduction of a number of restrictions.

The 26-year-old man was confirmed to have the more contagious B117 mutation known as the UK strain which has been spreading much more rapidly in countries where it is emerging.

A further 1200 secondary contacts have also been identified including 507 tennis players, officials and support staff.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said on Friday he was “a little bit surprised” none of the household and social primary close contacts had been infected.

But he flagged that it was still early in the potential incubation period.

“It is a highly transmissible virus. More transmissible than your standard coronavirus before these variants emerged,” Professor Sutton said.

“But there is some time to play out and we have tested people relatively early.”

Premier Daniel Andrews said the negative results were good news but warned Victorians that “this isn’t over yet”.

The infected man from Noble Park in southeast Melbourne tested positive to COVID-19 on Wednesday, five days after completing his last shift at the Grand Hyatt hotel.

The hotel was one of three being used to quarantine Australian Open tennis players, officials and support staff.

The man worked as a “resident support officer” as part of the Australian Open hotel quarantine program.

Genomics information was analysed further to determine who he contracted the virus from but Professor Sutton has stressed there had been no apparent breach in infection prevention and control protocols.

Masks must now be worn indoors and the number of visitors allowed in private homes has been halved to 15, while a scheduled increase in the number of workers allowed to return to the office has been put on hold.

The Open on Friday afternoon confirmed the entire tennis contingent has returned negative results, paving the way for lead-up matches to resume and the tournament proper to start on Monday.

Tennis players and officials for the 2021 Australian Open wait to be tested for Covid-19. Picture: AAP

Meanwhile, Victoria has moved to reclassify Perth and the WA’s South West and Peel regions from a “red” to “orange” risk zone, coinciding with the end of its five-day lockdown.

From 9pm AEDT on Friday, those in the areas will be able to apply for a permit to travel to Victoria on the condition they get tested and isolate until they receive a negative result.

There were 24 active cases in Victoria as of Friday, all but one in returned travellers in hotel quarantine and an increase of three since Thursday.

Caps lifted on returning Australians

More stranded Australians will be able to return home from later this month when international arrivals caps return to higher levels, as the coronavirus vaccine rollout nears.

The numbers were halved after new more contagious strains of coronavirus emerged in the UK and South Africa.

NSW will return to a cap of about 3000 people a week from February 15, while Queensland is reverting to 1000.

Victoria will increase its weekly hotel quarantine capacity to 1310 and SA has agreed to take 530 people a week.

WA will retain its halved cap of 500 until the end of the month.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the increased caps after a national cabinet meeting with state and territory leaders on Friday.

The return to more arrivals coincides with when officials hope to begin vaccinating hotel quarantine workers, frontline staff and border officials with the Pfizer coronavirus jab.

While he was hesitant to give a possible time frame for when Australia’s international borders will ease, Department of Health boss Professor Brendan Murphy said officials would keep a close eye on how well the population was protected after vaccinations.

“I don’t want to make a prediction but I think progressively over the second half of this year we should see a trajectory towards normality,” he told a parliamentary inquiry on Friday.

The government is aiming for most Australians to be vaccinated by the end of October.

-with AAP