Passengers on an international flight who arrived in Queensland last month have been forced to extend their hotel quarantine period for another five days after the Russian variant of coronavirus was detected in several positive cases.
Metro North Hospital and Health Service said several positive coronavirus cases were detected among passengers on Qatar Airways flight QR898 which arrived in Brisbane from Doha on February 17.
In a letter to passengers it said the infection developed in some returned travellers from the flight late into the 14-day quarantine period.
“Some cases have been found to have variant B.1.1.317 (Russian variant),” the letter said.
“Whilst this is not considered a variant of concern, little is known about the strain.
“We acknowledge that this news will be disappointing and understand that you would have been looking forward to leaving quarantine.”
It said Queensland Health now required all passengers and crew members on the flight, who were due to be released on Wednesday, to remain in hotel quarantine until March 8, and undertake additional testing.
Passengers will be required to get a nose and throat swab on Wednesday and on Friday as well as a blood test to look for antibodies against the virus that cause COVID-19.
Those required to stay in quarantine won’t be charged extra, and the state government will cover the payments.
A Queensland Health spokesperson said 74 travellers who may have been exposed to the variant were being given additional testing.
“As more variants emerge, we are taking a cautious approach. In some cases, this means we have further enhanced our quarantine requirements,” the spokesperson said.
“This new variant has meant we’ve had to extend the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for another five days and organise additional testing for 74 travellers who may have been exposed to this new variant.”
The spokesperson said the Russian variant had been confirmed in two overseas arrivals on flight QR898.
“Genomic testing is underway for a third traveller who tested positive to COVID-19 and was linked to this flight and remains in quarantine,” the spokesperson said.
All three cases were detected while in hotel quarantine.
Flight QR898 continued onto New Zealand and a fourth person linked to this flight that has since tested positive.
Queensland Health said genomic testing was also underway for this person and they were liaising with New Zealand authorities.