Victoria’s streak of days without locally acquired coronavirus cases has ended, with a local man testing positive for the virus after leaving hotel quarantine in Western Australia.
The man travelled from Perth to Melbourne on April 21, where he was instructed to get tested for the virus and quarantine.
All passengers on the man’s flight to Victoria (Qantas flight QF778) have been told to isolate for 14 days.
It is Victoria’s first community case of COVID in 56 days.
Confirmation of the man’s positive test came on Friday, after fresh concerns emerged about WA’s quarantine when a pregnant mother and her four-year-old daughter contracted COVID-19 while in a Perth hotel.
Genomic testing has confirmed the virus spread to the pair at Perth’s Mercure Hotel from a couple who had returned from India and were staying across the corridor.
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said the Melbourne man – who is asymptomatic – spent 14 days in a hotel room next to the infected couple.
He lives with his spouse and two children in the city’s east. The rest of his family has been tested for the virus and is in isolation.
“Public health actions are already under way. Household contacts are urgently being tested this morning and we would hope to get those results over the course of the day,” Mr Foley said.
He said the latest infection was a reminder that the pandemic was not over.
“We are seeing hundreds of millions of infections over the course of this pandemic and just this last couple of days, we have seen a world record number of infections in India on a single day,” he said.
“The message to Victorians is this is still has a long way to go.”
It emerged earlier this week that the WA government had known for weeks that the Mercure was the highest-risk of WA’s quarantine hotels due to ventilation issues.
On Thursday, WA Premier Mark McGowan said the Mercure would no longer accommodate returned overseas travellers.
The mother who contracted the virus, a nurse from Wales who is emigrating to Australia, is six months’ pregnant, the ABC reports.
She and her daughter, who tested positive on day 12 of their initial quarantine period, will be forced to remain in isolation for another week.
Friday’s positive case in Victoria came after NSW health authorities warned of a similar risk to other states, following the spread of the virus in hotel quarantine in Sydney.
Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller said it was “unacceptable” that previously healthy travellers had contracted the virus within hotel quarantine, something which has also happened in other states.
“It shows that our quarantine system has not been upgraded to a reasonable level by anyone’s standards,” he said.
Mr McGowan said WA’s nine quarantine hotels were accommodating more than 2000 international arrivals on any given day.
He said the federal government’s refusal to consider his proposal to shift returned travellers into Commonwealth facilities such as military bases or detention centres had left states running “imperfect” quarantine hotels.
“We have all sorts of people there running this massive system that was never designed for these purposes,” he said.
“We’re doing the best we can with the facilities we have available to us.”
State and federal leaders have backed Mr McGowan’s call to restrict travel from India, which is dealing with more than 300,000 new daily infections.
The number of repatriation flights will be cut along with the number of direct flights allowed to land in Australia.
It will also be harder for Australians to be granted an exemption to travel to India.
A report received by the government several weeks ago found the Mercure to be the highest-risk of WA’s quarantine hotels.
Former WA chief health officer Tarun Weeramanthri’s report was commissioned after a breach in January when a security guard at the Sheraton Four Points hotel contracted COVID-19 then unwittingly roamed the streets while infectious, prompting a five-day lockdown.
The floor of the Mercure hotel where the recent transmission occurred has been cleared of guests.
Eighteen guests who stayed on the same floor at the same time were previously released from the hotel after testing negative.
They have been retested and told to self-isolate until cleared. Security guards and healthcare workers from that floor are also being re-tested.
Two people who were in rooms immediately adjacent to the infected people have been asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.