South Australia’s public health chief says poor ventilation in the corridor of an Adelaide quarantine hotel may have triggered the coronavirus cluster that sent the state into lockdown in November.
Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said a review of CCTV vision from the Peppers Waymouth Hotel found no “significant breaches” of infection control.
South Australia’s medi-hotel system came under intense scrutiny after it was linked to the Parafield cluster, which was identified in November.
Contact tracing efforts focused on a man who was a kitchenhand at the Stamford medi-hotel, but worked a second job at the Woodville Pizza Bar alongside a coronavirus-infected security guard from Peppers.
Concerns were heightened when two Nepalese returned travellers initially thought to have caught coronavirus overseas were revealed to have acquired it while quarantining in Peppers.
Detectives combed through about 500 hours of CCTV, much of which was filmed at the medi-hotel, to help contact tracing efforts and determine what happened.
Professor Spurrier has previously said analysis of the security vision confirmed that it was a security guard who contracted the virus first from a returned traveller from Britain, and not a cleaner as first thought.
In a statement on Tuesday, Professor Spurrier said the infection occurred while the security guard was in the corridor on the floor where the British traveller was staying – but that staff had followed protocols.
“A review of the Peppers CCTV footage was completed by senior infection control and medical staff within the communicable disease control branch,” Professor Spurrier said.
“The review of the footage did not identify any significant breaches in infection control.
“However, the security guard who became infected while working spent some time in the corridor of the floor where the overseas positive case was located and reduced ventilation within the corridors may have contributed to the transmission of infection.
“The same guard was also on duty on the floor where the two Nepalese guests were residing. Again, there was no direct contact between the individuals so no definitive mode of transmission could be ascertained.”
Professor Spurrier said SA Health was trialling different security models “to reduce the amount of time staff spend stationary in corridors”.
The state’s COVID-19 State Coordinator, Police Commissioner Grant Stevens, said SA Health had yet to provide him with the Peppers review.
“I am aware there was a report being done,” Commissioner Stevens said.
Asked whether was aware of its contents, he said “not at this stage” but that “once it’s provided by Health I’ll certainly be looking at that”.
Commissioner Stevens said “technology” might be used to replace security guards at risk of contracting the virus in quarantine hotel corridors.
“Hotels are not designed to have well-ventilated corridors,” he said.
Check-in app downloads surge
Commissioner Stevens said almost 1 million South Australians had downloaded the MySA GOV app to check in to businesses, using QR codes.
He said about 45,000 businesses had obtained a QR code for their venue or outlet, and about 900,000 South Australians had downloaded the mobile app used to scan them.
The commissioner said no one had yet been fined for failing to use the check-in system.
“Generally we’re seeing people trying to do the right thing,” he said.
“This is a new thing for the community – even I have walked past a QR code and I’ve had to go back and scan back in, so it takes time for people to adjust their behaviours, and we’re giving them time to do that.
“Our approach is to assess a person’s genuine effort to comply.”
He said police officers would only start issuing expiation notices if they see “blatant” violations of the check-in requirement.