The Queensland government is shutting down a quarantine hotel after genomic testing discovered six people staying on the same floor have contracted the highly contagious British strain of coronavirus.
Premier Annastacia Palaszcuk said all six cases in the COVID-19 cluster, who are in isolation, had been on the seventh floor of Brisbane’s Grand Chancellor Hotel at different times during quarantine.
Ms Palaszczuk confirmed more precautions would be introduced as she announced two new cases of COVID-19 in Queensland on Wednesday.
All 129 people quarantining at the hotel will be moved to another hotel and tested. A further 226 people who have worked at the hotel since December 30 will be isolated and tested.
Another 250 guests who have left the hotel since December 30 will be contacted and told to isolate while they’re tested.
“What we are dealing with here is something that we’ve never had to deal with before,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“This is a new highly infectious strain. We do not want to see this getting out into the community and that’s why we have taken these precautionary steps today in the interests of the public safety.”
“Both groups of these overseas arrivals stayed on the same floor of the hotel at different times but not in neighbouring rooms.”
“There is no need for the public to be concerned, but we are going to take some immediate actions as a precaution.
“We have some genomic testing that came back late last night and … linked six cases of the highly infectious UK variant of COVID.
“These are the UK traveller and his partner, the hotel cleaner and her partner, and the man and his daughter from Lebanon who we told you about yesterday — so all six have a connection to the Grand Chancellor Hotel.”
Geoff Crooks is in quarantine with his wife at the hotel and said he was told overnight his stay would be extended.
“We were due for release one minute after midnight last night, we’ve done our 14 days,” Mr Crooks said.
“We got a knock on the door at 11:00pm last night, two police officers saying [there is a] possibility that you’ll be here for another two weeks.”
Officers gave Mr Crooks a new quarantine direction, which has been seen by the ABC, extending his isolation period until January 26.
“My brother’s funeral is tomorrow in Wollongong, he died while I’ve been in here,” Mr Crooks said.
“We understand the quarantine process, we agree you have to have it, but to be told in the eleventh hour that you’re stuck here.”
Chief health officer Jeannette Young said authorities still hadn’t worked out how a cleaner at the hotel initially contracted the virus from a man in quarantine who had returned from Britain.
The woman’s later movements in Brisbane triggered a three-day lockdown of the entire city and outlying areas on the weekend.
Dr Young said 310 of the woman’s close contacts had been tested and only one, her partner, had the British strain of COVID-19.
Another 96 close contacts are being tested of awaiting their results.
Authorities are looking for anyone else who may have come into contact with the woman at Woolworths at Calamvale North, Coles Sunnybank Hills Shoppingtown and a Sunnybank Hills newsagent between January 3-5.
They are also seeking anyone who was at Bunnings Warehouse Acacia on January 5 or Sunnybank Cellars on January 6.
Dr Young asked anyone who had been to Capriccio’s Italian Pizza Restaurant in Maleny on January 6 or Purple Palette Cellars or Woolworths Maleny on January 7 to get tested.
Dr Young said all defence force, police and maritime safety staff who were posted at the hotel were being contacted, including those who may have left Australia.
“We’ve immediately worked through the night to sort all that and have that process start first thing this morning, so it’s in place,” she said.
“We need to just find all those people and test them.”
The total number of active cases in Queensland is 26.
Elsewhere, NSW had one more community case on Wednesday, from 20,664 tests to 8pm Tuesday. It is in the Berala cluster, and a household contact of an existing case.
Testing numbers in NSW also jumped back above 20,000 after a plea on Tuesday from authorities.
Victoria had its seventh consecutive day without community virus cases. There were three more in hotel quarantine.